Freshmen in Beth Lantz’s history class co-hosted a dress down day in April and raised $155 for CRY’s (Child Rights and You) Girl Education Campaign. Read their powerpoint here.
by Elizabeth E., Abby M., Caroline M., & Josh B. ’17
We are a group of four ninth graders here at Moses Brown. For the past month, we have been researching and studying child labor in India in Beth Lantz’s history class. We have learned many of the struggles and hardships of the working children, including mental trauma, sexual abuse, and physical violence. We believe that, although child labor is believed to help India’s struggling economy, it is unacceptable for the workers to be treated as they are. We began our research attempting to find an answer to child labor, trying to eradicate this problem. As we continued to learn about India and its issues, we realized that child labor is not a problem that can be fixed with a simple answer, as India’s poverty is ever-growing. Many families in India need their children to work, in order to survive, despite their dangers. In India, the best way to stop poverty and child labor is through enforcing education for children of every age, giving future generations the opportunity to break out of the cycle and become successful. We are writing to the Moses Brown community because we believe that every child should be able to have a childhood and go to school, in order to give future generations the ability to survive.
Many children who work in India are subject to terrible working conditions. Children usually work in agriculture or in manufacturing, such as picking cotton or rice, or making carpets, brassware and bricks (“India”-Findings). In many cases, they are forced to work in severe weather, such as monsoons (Harris). Young children are exposed to dangerous chemicals and tools (India),and as a result, deaths are very common in coal mines and factories (Harris). On top of such tragedies, the children do not make a lot of money to bring home to their families (Harris). However, India recognizes the issues that are at hand. Over the years, there have been multiple laws that have been passed regarding child labor, attempting to make conditions better for those who do work, but none of them have followed through. For example, the Child Labor Prohibition and Regulation Act in 1986 stated that age 14 was the end of childhood. Part 2 of this act states where children can or cannot work. For example, they may not work near factories or train tracks. Part 3 outlined the conditions for child labor, including that children can work for three hours, then receive one break (“CHILD Protection & Child Rights-Child Labor”). Multiple other laws have been passed in India; however, child labor “masters”, and the government itself, ignore the laws so they get more of a profit. This lack of enforcement of the law is the main reason why India’s child labor laws have not been resolved. We found that approximately ⅔ of India’s laborers receive only $15 per week, and children usually work to provide help to their low-income families (Harris). With a population of 1,220,800,359 people, India is known as the second-most populated country in the world (“The World Factbook”), and 29.8% of this population is under the poverty line, causing child labor to be forced upon many families (“The World Factbook”). With 28 million children in work between the ages 6 and 14 (Harris), India has the most laborers under 14 in the world (UNICEF).
With these facts, we shifted our focus to a more general question, that could address these issues for the future, and work around the lack of response from the Indian authorities: “What changes in India can be made to working conditions for children that allow for more opportunities in their lives to succeed and improve their futures?”
We realized that, in India, the best way to stop poverty and child labor is through enforcing education for the working children. Education gives India’s future generations many opportunities to break out of the cycle, and become successful in a high income job. The cycle of poverty is never-ending. Once a child is born into poverty, they will likely go to work or be married while they are underage in an attempt to help their family. The younger the child is, the more likely they are to be subject to violence and sexual abuse. If young girls are educated, they will be able to marry later, have fewer children, get a job, and have power (“World Day Against Child Labour 2009: Give Girls a Chance”). Education, therefore, breaks the cycle of poverty.
While researching, we came across a non-profit and non-governmental organization called “CRY: Child Rights and You”. Child Rights and You has offices all over the world, and with one office in India, they are working in India to fight for children’s rights, and make sure the conditions they are working under are not harmful. In India, CRY has put 4,99,228 children between the ages of 6-18 into schools, in order to get them out of poverty (“Children’s Rights in India”), which is exactly the approach we wanted to take. The four of us believe that the way to get children into schools and out of work would be to make our local communities aware of the issues at hand. Child Rights and You has launched a campaign called: “Girl Child Education Campaign”, focusing on getting children, specifically girls, into school. Our group had a dress down day on April 29th, 2014 with the money collected going to CRY’s campaign. We are going to post this letter on the Moses Brown Website, in order to make the Moses Brown community aware of the situation in India and help to support CRY and the Girl Child Education Campaign.
We know that most of India’s population is too far under the poverty line to abolish child labor completely. Using this knowledge, we have found that the first step is to get children into schools, which would help future generations. Therefore, it is important we show you, the Moses Brown community, the issues that India is facing. It is necessary to take action that can change the future for current children and generations of children to come, rather than only focusing on the present. Changes that should be made for children in India all include education; which, if encouraged, would break the cycle of poverty and/or child labor. Children need to be taught valuable jobs in order to inspire future generations. With 28 million children (Harris) subject to losing their childhood to work, the time to change India’s society is now. With the help of the Moses Brown Community, we can improve the lives of Indian children, and break the cycle of poverty. Here is a link if you would like to donate online, or read more about Child Rights and You.
Note: If this is a topic you would like to share with your children, we encourage you to do so. Thank you for reading.