What’s common between the following two incidents-
– A Mother drives her 12-year-old kid to an international kid’s wear brand showroom at Fashion Valley, San Diego, USA
– Rajan, a 7-year-old kid from Hubli district of West Bengal mysteriously goes missing from his village
If you’re still trying to figure out the connection between two seemingly mutually exclusive events, here’s the sad revelation: Rajan was rescued in Gujarat, from a sweatshop improperly subcontracted by the international kid’s wear company to produce ‘cheap’ clothes using child labour.
This example might sound fictitious, but actually, it’s too close to reality. An international brand was in the news for ‘being unaware’ that clothes meant for its Christmas sale in the USA were actually being made by Indian ‘slave’ children working in filthy conditions in the Shahpur Jat area of Delhi.
According to the latest census, there are 10.1 million working children between the age of 5-14. Most of these kids are either illegally employed in intensive industries such as bangle making, beedi rolling, brick kiln, imitation jewellery, woodwork, embroidery work or ‘legally’ recruited by urban families from ‘village uncles‘ for invisible labour intensive work. Taking advantage of poverty-stricken families from the poorest of villages, these so-called ‘uncles’ work as employment exchange for child workers. The child will be ’employed’ under the pretext of being financially taken care of. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg; because most of the dirty work doesn’t happen publicly. We may feel that child labour has decreased in India, but that’s a delusional thought as these kids are mostly ‘invisible’.
These children are invisible to us because child trafficking has moved to unregulated industries and factories & the homes of business owners. No wonder, urban child labour has grown by more than 50%. E.g. the ugly side of Rajkot’s famed imitation jewellery business was exposed, not once or twice but umpteen times when kids, as young as 8-year-olds, were rescued from its evil clutches.
According to a report by SOMO, 60% of workers at the mills it investigated in India were under-18 when they started working there; the youngest workers were 15 when they joined. And these are usually textile and garment mills where little hands are forced to work on intricate labour intensive tasks like embroidery, yarn spinning, sewing buttons, sequinning and smocking (making pleats).
Hence, although we are witnessing a decline in child labourers at publicly visible workplaces like chai tapdis, shops and food stalls, there’s a sea of children working for more than 14 hours a day for as low as Rs. 10 per day in unscrupulous factories producing woodwork, imitation jewellery, dairy, fireworks, lace bangles, embroidery & garments.
These grim stories & facts pique our curiosity to search for a solution. On a personal level, we might not be directly engaged in employing child labour, but it is enough to curb it? Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi believes that child labour can only be eliminated through collective action, political will, adequate resources and sympathy for the deprived children. What stands out from the list are ‘collective action’ and ‘sympathy’. Many NGOs like CHILDLINE are already working relentlessly to eradicate child labour in India and they form the ‘collective action’ pillar of the equation. On the other hand, ‘sympathy’ arises from education, be it from parents, teachers, celebrities or corporates. E.g. to create awareness, sympathy and initiate action, Reliance General Insurance Company Limited has teamed up with CHILDLINE to create a unique campaign this Children’s Day titled #GiftChildhood.
Reliance General Insurance has created four beautiful videos of craftsmanship employed while making handicrafts. When these videos are played on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, they are usually on auto-mute. So all you can see is the beautiful handicrafts being made. However, the descriptions on these videos prompt people to unmute the videos. And the sound that they hear next is the ugly, heartbreaking reality behind child labour. Have a look:
A master embroider at work, a masterpiece in the making. Watch magic being weaved with your own eyes. Unmute for the complete experience. Learn More: http://bit.ly/2qKPZuk #GiftChildhood #HappyChildrensDay #ChildrensDay
Reliance General Insurance ಅವರಿಂದ ಈ ದಿನದಂದು ಪೋಸ್ಟ್ ಮಾಡಲಾಗಿದೆ ಮಂಗಳವಾರ, ನವೆಂಬರ್ 13, 2018
In the video, the child labourers can be heard being verbally abused at work. The stark contrast between the beautiful craftsmanship shown in the video and the agony of innocent children drives the message that rings loud and clear: Did this reality bother you? Then go ahead and do something about it. Reliance General Insurance has always been a socially committed brand and continues its legacy of responsible marketing with this piercing campaign.
Celebrities like Mandira Bedi, VVS Laxman, Soha Ali Khan were deeply moved by the videos and rallied for the cause.
Mandira Bedi spoke about the real truth behind beautiful Hand Embroidery
While VVS Laxman spoke about Wood Carving industry
A much-needed reality check on children’s day. It’s time we joined hands to hit child labour out of the park. Who else is with me to #GiftChildhood back to these children? #HappyChildrensDay pic.twitter.com/TKFaAjl3Ua
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) November 14, 2018
Soha Ali Khan spilt the beans about Imitation Jewellery
We all know that child labour still exists but unfortunately it has become a blind spot for most people. We must now open our eyes to the reality and take efforts to give these children a better shot at life. #GiftChildhood #HappyChildrensDay pic.twitter.com/KVyign2Hzp
— Soha Ali Khan (@sakpataudi) November 14, 2018
Sapna Bhavnani opened our eyes towards Lac Bangles
If you too want to spark a change then there’s more than one way to help. You can easily donate to Childline to renew the lives of as many child labourers as they can, by clicking here. If not monetarily, you can always share, rewteet and tag your friends to spread awareness and most importantly, to create an empathetic environment for the children of India; so that they go to school, not work.