Saturday, December 24, 2011

Matchbox Kids, Not Toys - End Slavery

Source: BBC
In response to reading a blog post from Cool Cat Teacher Blog to raise awareness about modern day slavery during this holiday season, one thing came to mind, candles. It is not just the significance of candles for the Christian holiday of Christmas, the Jewish holiday of Chanakah, or the African celebration of Kwanza, but also matches. Candles are lit for each of these festivals to mark a special occasion. When we light candles, we often use matches, but how often do we think about where matches come from other than the store? Do most people know that India is one of the largest producers of matches, or that a vast majority of its match making industry is supported by child labor? Well, it is.

Here are just a few simple facts from the website Products of Slavery:
  • In one of India's matchbox factories, ten-year-old Kavitha was made to grind a highly combustible mixture, leaving her with permanently blackened hands. Source : UNICEF, 2005, "India: Project Helps Child
  • A study carried out in India found that children working in matchbox factories earned the equivalent of just two euros a week for 12 straight hours of work. Source : International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, 2006, "India: Economic Boom Masks
  • In 2002, as many as 66,000 children, aged between six and 14, were found working in matchbox factories in the Indian city of Silvasi alone. Source : International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, "India: Economic Boom Masks Widespread Child Labour," October 2006, Pg. 2
Source: Child Labor in India
India has a huge child labor problem, and many children as young as six years old work long hours each day for miniscule pay. Many are employed in match factories, as well as in the fireworks industry. Injuries abound, and they are too poor to get treatment for their ailments. Many, too, keep working because they are so poor. According to Legal India, of the 200,000 workers in the labor force in the matchbox industry, experts claim that 35% are children below the age of 14. They are made to work over twelve hours a day, beginning work at around 4:00 a.m., everyday. For an incredible documentary on the subject, watch the video Child Labor in India. It is not for the faint of heart.

So this holiday season as you light candles in celebration, perhaps think about ways to help educate our students to make the world a better place for exploited children and to put an end to slave labor.

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