Monday, May 14, 2007

Child Trafficking

I find the story of Madeleine McCann extremely sad, a British girl abducted from her parents' hotel room during a holiday in Portugal. I cannot even begin to think about how I would cope with this if it was my daughter, and it is all made worse to think that this may have been part of an organised trafficking ring.

Watching people band together over the past week to raise money for a reward has been amazing. Celebrities and business people have combined to raise a phenomenal amount of money.

Yet, after working with other such victims (or their families) in Nepal, I cannot help but think it is sad that the millions of victims of child trafficking around the world get such little publicity in comparison. Everyday, mothers and fathers are heartbroken over the loss of their children in the same situations. Most of them never see their again, and none of them receive such publicity, money, support, hopes or prayers.

According to the ILO (International Labour Organisation), 1.2 MILLION children are trafficked world-wide every year, into exploitative work in the fields of agriculture, mining, factories, armed conflict, or commercial sex work. I have seen first-hand in Nepal the conditions child labourers work under and it is heartbreaking- children as young as 5 carrying 12 bricks on their heads for 12 hours a day, earning only 30 cents a month; or 6 year olds going blind after a shard of rock penetetrates their eyes while they sit in the hot sun all day breaking rocks into gravel. And I don't even want to talk about the stories I heard from the few victims of child prostitution rings who managed to find their ways back to their families (albeit usually shunned for life and infected with the HIV/AIDS virus).

I would hope that if anything can come out of this, the people that have contributed such vast amounts of money to Madeleine's reward would also consider donating some money to organisations committed to stamp out child trafficking around the world. And perhaps you and I can contribute what we can as well.

Child trafficking is a heinous crime- whether it be one white British girl in Portugal, or 1.2 Million faceless children world-wide.

"Child Trafficking- A threat to Global Peace", by Ehsan Ullah Khan for Global March conference on Child Trafficking in Esposende, Portugal 23-24th September 2005 (PDF)
"UNICEF Child Protection Information Sheet- Trafficking" (PDF)
Interactive Child Trafficking Map- UNICEF- Read about the stories of victims of child trafficking from all over the world.
World Education Brighter Futures Program In Nepal, one of every three children is a child laborer, with an estimated 2.6 million children between the ages of five and fourteen working on farms, in factories, in businesses, or in other people's homes. World Education is implementing a four-year project to combat child labor through education.
Global March Against Child Labour
Child Labour in the Sporting Goods Industry by the Global March Against Child Labour (based on the investigation led by Philippe Roy, International Media Coordinator, Global March International Secretariat, 2002) PDF

End Child Trafficking- UNICEF Campaign
Donate to UNIFEC

All photos on this post are my own, taken in Nepal, 2002-2003.

Taken shortly before this boy's 7 year old sister was abducted from Karkabhitta, Nepal and sold into domestic labour in Darjeeling India (their parents knew of her where-abouts but had no means to buy her back)

A garbage collector in Bhaktapur, Nepal
(she collects rubbish to sell what useful materials she can find
Estimated age: 12 years old)

Child agricultural workers in Jhapa, Nepal.
Many child labourers in Nepal work long, hot days in the tea fields, planting, maintaining and picking the tea. It is something we can think about over our next cup of tea.

Young women cleaning a public temple in Kathmandu Nepal.
(Estimated ages: 15 years old)

A young girl carries grass home to feed the family's livestock in Phikhel, Nepal
(I've tried this myself and it is deceptively heavy)

Young women labourers working on building construction in Jhapa, Nepal. Women are used as manual labourers, little more than mules, while the men do the skilled construction work.


Phil said...

Though on some level I agree that this publicity campaign, in a way, gives more weight to the life of a child raised in the "western world", but considering the little publicity that that child labour (bonded or not) got before is lamentable. At this point any publicity is good and necessary.

I'm not even sure people still know there is child labour. I was surprised myself to be confronted to it on a daily basis in India and Pakistan.

Child labour in general is a really touchy issue and sensitive topic of conversation. You cannot be entirely against it because that would mean ignoring the micro-economic realities of these children, yet you cannot be for it either, simply because they're children.

I've erased the remaining paragraphs five times now because I keep on wanting to go into a venting diatribe... so I stop here.

Gabby Girl said...

My question is why in the world did the parents leave their 3 year old daughter in the hotel room while they were eating dinner? The article didn't say if there was someone in the room with her at the time, but I can't imagine someone busting down a door, knocking an adult over the head, just to kidnap one person - but I guess anything is possible.

If they did just leave here there by herself, the parents should have the brains examined.

I completely agree that child labor/abduction/trafficking is wrong, and that we should do something to stop this heinous crime, but parents in situations like this should learn to keep a better eye on their children - especially when that child is 3 years old.

Girl Clumsy said...

A well-written post on an important topic - thanks Louise.

I have also been somewhat bemused by the massive attention on this particular case, considering as you point out the millions of children who are trafficked every year. But as Phil says, if it helps draws attention to the faceless victims, it's worth it.

I would also like to know more about your time in Nepal. There's plans afoot (for a long time off mind) for my boyfriend and I, and two friends of ours, to do a trip to Nepal. The boys want to climb to Everest base camp, but us girls are keen on doing something local - like working with a local charity or school etc. My email is if you ever have time to drop me a line about your work there. It certainly looks like a beautiful country.

Also... my apologies for not buying anything from your Cafe Press store yet. I promise I'm getting around to it... ;)

Cheers, Natalie.