Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Today is World Day Against Child Labor
From the age of four, Manjula accompanied her mother at 5 o’clock every morning to the matchstick factory in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, India. Going without much-needed sleep, and abandoning any pretence of safety, Manjula and her mother worked in the appalling, hazardous conditions for just a few pence a day. Every month they saw dozens of their ‘colleagues’ suffer chemical burns and terrible injuries from explosions. They lived in fear not only of their working environment, but also of being beaten and abused if they did not meet their production quota for the day.
Today, Manjula is twelve-years old. Sadly, her younger sister, Kavitha, has also taken up the matchstick trade. Her parents live in a never-ending cycle of debt. Manjula and Kavitha are the collateral with which those debts will be repaid through ‘bonded’ labour.
With scars on their frail, undernourished bodies to tell the tale, these girls have been denied a childhood and denied a life of freedom. What hope do they have for a better tomorrow?
Manjula is one of an estimated 15 million children in bonded labour in India today. Like Manjula, up to nine out of every ten are Dalits. They can be found in brick kilns, in silk factories, working in the fields and in many other industries. They work in often dangerous conditions for long hours and subject to physical and sexual abuse, as well as illness and injury. They are working to pay off family debts. Many will be working for the rest of their lives to clear the debt. Some will have been sold to the landowner or factory boss by their family.
Dalit Freedom Network is working to bring an end to this modern form of slavery.