June 12 is World Day against Child Labour. According to the International Labour Organization, the number of children in child labour around the world is 168 million children, and more than half of them are in hazardous work.
Having lived in India for eight years, I know only too well the sorry sight of child labourers. I’ve seen young girls begging at traffic lights, boy hawkers roaming the streets, adolescents working in factories and behind shop counters, young kids herding goats along rural roads, children scavenging through rubbish dumps, others carrying bricks on hazardous construction sites, boys trudging the streets selling chai, girls performing acrobatic tricks on the roadside for spare change, delivery boys carrying heavy loads above their heads… They are all symbols of exploitation, children deprived of their rights and their childhoods, robbed of an education.
What can you do? Be aware. Be conscious of the products you buy. Speak up against child labour to stop companies employing kids. Educate your own children about the fight against child labour. Be a smart traveller when visiting countries with a poor reputation for child labour. During my time in India, I refused to buy from suppliers that employed children. I fought against begging syndicates by giving beggar kids food instead of money. Every little bit counts. Be a responsible global citizen and do your bit, even if it’s just by sharing this message with friends.