Did you know that 160 million children worldwide are victims of child labour? The topic of child labour is quite sensitive, whether you’re directly affected or not. If you are from a developing or underdeveloped country, it becomes even harder to speak about this and I’ll tell you why…
Differentiating between child labour & child work
Firstly, we need to establish what child labour is and how it differs from child work. Child work refers to the responsibilities given to children by adults to help with their character development. This can include activities such as washing dishes, watering the plants and helping with cleaning around the house.
Child labour, simply put, is the exploitation of children through work. The degrees of child labour vary, ranging from children working long hours in factories, to children being forced into sex work.
Many things influence child labour, the main drivers being poverty and marginalisation. Children in developing and underdeveloped countries have the odds stacked against them from a young age, leaving them with very little choice, if any. It’s extremely difficult to be picky about anything, least of all the kind of job you do when you don’t know where your next meal is going to come from.
Unable to read, little to no prospects of getting an education and large families with low levels of income. With this many negatives staring you in the face every waking day, even having that job, which very much constitutes child labour, starts feeling like a blessing. Children, who should be worrying about solving maths problems are forced to grow up and work to help take care of their families.
Almost half of child labour takes place in Africa, which can be linked to the fact that most African countries are either developing or underdeveloped. Children between the ages 5-11 make up 48% of child labourers worldwide, working in various industries such as agriculture, textile manufacturing and even mining. The consequences of child labour are staggering, sometimes even leading to death.
In my opinion, children should be allowed to be children regardless of their circumstances. It’s unacceptable that children as young as 5 are required to work any kind of job to help sustain themselves and their families. Whatever the cause, child labour aggravates social inequality. It robs young girls and boys of their childhood.
How you can help
Organisations such as UNICEF work tirelessly to prevent and respond to child labour, but the impact would be much greater if we all played a role. Little things such as donating clothes and food hampers to families in need/shelters, signing online petitions against child labour, supporting fair trade and being aware of the brands and companies you support, all of this would go a long way in ensuring that children have normal and peaceful childhoods.
When someone were to ask you to tell them about some of your fondest childhood memory, chances are you get flushed with warm and fuzzy feelings. From your first stuffed toy, to making the first team at netball all the way to your first award for spelling. This should be the case for every single child in the world, and it starts with you. We all have a responsibility to ensure that children are protected, educated and loved.