Watching the video I felt sick. It showed the plight of child miners in Tanzania. Terrified young children sent down poorly constructed tunnels doing backbreaking and dusty work; children robbed of the opportunity to attend school; robbed of the present opportunity to enjoy the carefree play of childhood; and robbed of their future.
The video then cuts to a luxurious jewellery centre, selling necklaces, earrings, and bracelets adorned with the gemstone tanzanite, gemstones mined by the children. I felt sick because I recognised the shop. It was the shop I had entered in January 2005 to buy gifts for Sandy and my daughters. Without realizing it I had purchased gifts built on the back of the most awful exploitation of children.
According to the International Labour Organisation there are 215 million children trapped in forms of labour that steal away their childhood and harm their development. That’s one in every seven children on the planet. 115 million of these are labouring in “the worst forms of child labour” – slavery or slave-like conditions, prostitution or sex-trafficking, pornography, manufacture or sale of illicit drugs, or other forms of hazardous work, like gem mining in Tanzania, that that degrade their bodies and threaten their moral well-being.
We benefit from the exploitation of children on an almost daily basis. Almost 2 million children are involved in child labour on the cocoa farms of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, the source of most of the world’s cocoa; children are in bonded labour making footballs in India and Pakistan; Apple has even discovered child labourers in its factories in China!
This is an issue to which I cannot turn a blind eye, nor can any of us. I have discovered there are three things I can do:
1. Financially and prayerfully support community development work among poor communities overseas. Poverty is one of the biggest factors driving child labour. Helping communities lift out of poverty and recognise and respect the rights of their children will go a long way to combatting child labour. If you don’t do so already, I recommend sponsoring a child with Baptist World Aid Australia, whose child centred community development approach is one of the best you’ll find;
2. Buy ethically – wherever I can I will preference ethically traded goods, such as Fair trade certified tea and coffee;
3. Lend my voice to advocacy campaigns that are shining a light on poverty and child labour. I actively participate in the Micah Challenge and Stop the Traffik campaigns and have been thrilled to see the positive changes they have effected.
These are all relatively simple things for me to do, but if they can help put an end to child labour, for some children at least, I will be pleased.