Child Labor and Forced Labor

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Updated: Jun 03, 2019
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How it works

Imagine living in a world where you are not waking up to a morning of eating a bowl of cereal or even going to math class. Well, many kids around the world do not get anything like that. These kids have to wake up to a 3.5° Celsius morning at 6 o’clock, just for a long 16 hour day of hard, dangerous, work.

What is Child Labor?

Child Labor is a word people use to describe children being forced into an unpaid, cruel and unsafe business. Compassion – in Jesus’ name states that there are 168,000,000 kids around the world stuck in child labor, and 85,000,000 of the jobs are dangerous. That is about 11% of the child population. Margaret Wurth says that “My colleagues and I have interviewed hundreds of child farmworkers in the US in recent years. They’ve told us harrowing stories of working long hours in extreme heat, using sharp tools, heavy machinery, and climbing to dangerous heights with nothing to protect them from falling. Many are exposed to toxic pesticides, and on tobacco farms, children face the added risk of being exposed to nicotine, a neurotoxin.” Sure, child labor has ended in America but there are still so many countries where it is still going on. For example, Nigeria, Burundi, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, etc. These are all places where people are forcing, and threatening kids to move bricks, weave fabric, mine, and so on, all day long. This is an ongoing problem that needs to stop. People have tried to make laws to stop it but even so, people are still forcing kids into illegal work.

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Chapter 2: Iqbal Masih

You may not know this but according to Call Me Hannah, children in child labor do not get proper nutrition and medical care, they are not fed enough and work in very hard places. They also do not get to go to school or play with friends, they do not get a room of their own to sleep in, and they do not live with their family because they work and work and work, and Iqbal was one of them.

What Happened To Him?

Iqbal Masih was only the young age of 4 in 1987 when his parents sold him into slavery to pay off a $12 debt. He was born into a poor Christian family in Muridke. A small town outside of Lahore in Punjab, Pakistan. Iqbal worked for 16 hours a day, weaving carpets, sewing soccer balls, and picking cotton. After 6 years of forced, unpaid labor, he escaped and went on the run at the age of 10. After about two years he was caught because he was starting to speak out publicly against child labor

What did he fight for?

Iqbal Masih narrowly escaped after he learned that bonded labor was illegal. He reported it to the police but they sent him away ungratefully. The police then told the people who owned the carpet weaving company to tie him upside down if he tried to escape again. Iqbal escaped a second time and he attended the Bonded Labour Liberation Front (BLLF) School for former child slaves and quickly completed a four-year education in only two years. Iqbal traveled around Pakistan speaking out against the unsolved problem of child labor. He went to the U.S. and visited the school of Broad Meadows middle school in Quincy. He asked them for their help but was shot just five months later. The middle school was so inspired and determined, they decided to follow through with his dream and made a web site to inform people all around America about child labor. With this, they gathered more than $100,000 for donations.

Lasting Effects

Iqbal has inspired numerous campaigns and organizations such as Free The Children. Young and old, people all over the world are raising money, writing books, and making awards. Iqbal Masih proved to the world that child labor was a serious problem that needs to change.

Chapter 3: Fighting Against Child Labor

According to UNICEF, children get paid about 20 cents a day to work thirteen hours with just one thirty minute break. However, The Christian Science Monitor states that roughly 100 million fewer children are having to work or are trapped in slavery or sex trafficking, according to a progress report.

How Are People Helping?

According to USAID people all around the world have started campaigns and organizations of all sorts. Organizations in over 100 countries came together in 1998. They created a very successful march called Global March Against Child Labor. So successful was the march that it reached all the way across 103 countries. In June 1998, activists called on governments, international organizations, companies, and civil society to come together to end child labor. In the late 1990s, the number of kids in child labor dropped significantly by 250,000,000.

How Did Iqbal Help?

Before he died, Iqbal decided he wanted to do just as Abraham Lincoln did and become a lawyer. With this, he helped over 3,000 Pakistani children that were in bonded labor to escape into freedom. He made speeches all throughout the world about child labor. He toured various cities of Pakistan where child slavery is known to exist. He also traveled internationally inviting people to stand with him against child labor.

Chapter 4: Solutions

You might not realize this but there are so many people that are helping with child labor problems. There are things like organizations, foundations, coalitions, activists, and even ordinary people. So what are some examples of those things?

Organizations that Help

There are several organizations around the world that help with global child labor problems. One example of a helpful organization is the International Initiative to End Child Labour or (IIECL). The main thing that they focus on is raising awareness, fighting for education, and assisting private entities in developing their labor programs. Another example of a helpful organization is called Stop Child Labor. According to Raptim, Stop Child Labor is a coalition of multiple local and global organizations. All have one thing in common: the belief that no child should be exploited. The organization works more on the policy level to stop child labor. They participate in advocacy, revision of regulatory initiatives, research, conferences, forums, and, legal work, responses to regulatory initiatives, forums, and campaigns.

Other Activists That Help

You may not know this but, although they may not be as famous as Iqbal Masih, there are several activists helping to save children from child labor. An example, of a child labor activist, is Kailash Satyarthi. According to AFL-CIO, Kailash Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to eradicate child labor and forced labor. In 1998, Satyarthi created the Global March Against Child Labor, a coalition of unions and child rights organizations from around the world, to work toward the elimination of child labor. Global March members and partners are now in more than 140 countries. Another example of a child labor activist is Alejandra Anchetia. AFL-CIO writes about how Ancheita and ProDESC have fought for 15 years to protect land and labor rights of indigenous groups and Mexican workers from transnational mining and energy companies. ProDESC has collaborated closely with Los Mineros and United Steelworkers on organizing campaigns at Excelon in Durango and Goldcorp in Guerrero and has also worked with the AFL-CIO and Solidarity Center on the defense of migrant workers’ human rights. This shows that there are a lot of people making a difference around the world even if some of them are less famous.

How Can You Help?

According to the Institute for Humane Education, there are many ways you can help with child labor including,

Educating Yourself

Use resources such as those suggested here, and then share what you learn with friends, family, co-workers, and others, and work together to increase your “voting” power.

Contact Retail Stores, Manufacturers, and Importers.

Kindly ask them questions about the origins of their products. Let them know you want to buy products that don’t involve child labor and give them suggestions for ethical products and services they can offer instead.

Buy Used When You Can

Borrow, share, trade, or make it yourself. Look for certified fair trade labels such as Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade America, and the Goodweave label to ensure that you’re supporting positive practices that don’t involve child labor.

Use Food Empowerment Project’s Chocolate List to ensure that the chocolate you’re purchasing was not made using child labor.

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Child Labor and Forced Labor. (2019, Jun 03). Retrieved from