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Global Profits from Dangerous Child Labor


I started panning when I was six years old. It was the only way to make a living and afford something to eat. Today, there are 168 million children engaged
in child labor worldwide. In today’s globalized economy, the food that
we eat, the jewelry or the clothing that we wear the products that we buy, often go through many steps to reach the global market. Children may be involved at different stages in making those products
especially at the local level, in local farms, in local factories.
Multinational companies that sell these products have a responsibility to make sure that they do not use child labor at any stage of
their supply chain. When products are made with child labor, it
also means that businesses are profiting from the exploitation of children. My name is Azizullah. I’m 12.
I’ve been weaving carpets for about seven years. There are 11 of us brothers and sisters and we earn our living for our family through
carpet weaving. Now not all work by children is bad.
But when children are too young, when their work interferes with their schooling,
or if they’re working in conditions that threaten their health and their safety, that
needs to be prohibited. The majority of child laborers in the world,
70% are working in agriculture. Summer is the hardest because we go inside
the hothouses and it’s extremely hot. We spray [pesticides] in there but they don’t
provide us masks or gloves to protect ourselves. Children often work very long hours in extreme heat. They often work with sharp tools or heavy
machinery that can cause accidents and death. One of the biggest concerns is that they’re
often exposed to toxic pesticides that can cause cancer,
respiratory difficulties, reproductive health problems and neurological deficits. When they spray, you can tell the chemical
is very, very, very strong. I couldn’t work at all. I couldn’t even stand.
I was just laying in the bed. In dozens of countries, children also work
in tobacco fields and this adds an additional factor that is quite dangerous for children
which is the exposure to nicotine. They can absorb nicotine through their skin
and experience poisoning that takes the form of dizziness, nausea ,vomiting
and headaches. About a million children world wide work in
mining which is one of the most dangerous forms of child labor. One time, when we were down in the pit, my
companions were bringing down lumber. The rope around the wood loosened and the
lumber fell down us. Fortunately, we managed to evade it. If not, we would have died. Children mining gold will often use mercury
to separate the gold from the ore. Mercury is incredibly dangerous for children.
It can cause neurological problems including irreversible brain damage.
Some of the children that Human Rights Watch interviewed reported spasms, tremors and other
symptoms that are consistent with mercury poisoning. When you are burning the gold, you inhale
the mercury fumes. Child labor creates a vicious cycle of poverty.
Children will often go to work because they’re trying to help their families. But when they go to work at an early age, they’re more likely to drop out of school
and they end up in dead end jobs where they can never get ahead. I don’t like mining at all. I’d like to go
to school full-time but I can’t afford to pay for my uniform or books.
I mine so I am able to buy these things but otherwise, I would
never consider mining,. Governments have a responsibility to ensure
that children have access to education and an adequate standard of living. But governments
also have a responsibility to regulate businesses that might exploit children. Today’s global standards on business and human
rights are voluntary. What that
means is that some companies take them seriously but many companies don’t.
What we need is for governments to step up and ensure that there are mandatory rules
so that all companies regardless of where they operate, have to
take steps to ensure that they do not exploit children
or any other worker in the production of their goods.

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