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Joan Kelley Weisshaar Walker Headshot

How We Can Take Action Against Child Labour

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It's been some time now since the factory collapse in Bangladesh, a devastating and needless tragedy for countless people. The only good thing to come of it is that more people around the world have started to realize the price of cheap goods. This disaster that killed more than 1,100 textile workers sparked heated debates about retail supply chains and ethical consumerism. No one wants to purchase something knowing that the making of that product has compromised someone else's well-being. It is horrible that any worker has to go to work in unsafe, dangerous conditions.

The only thing worse, as far as I am concerned, is that many of these workers are children. According to stats from International Labour Organization, 115 million of the world's children are working in the worst forms of child labor this year. These children are doing jobs that are dangerous, dirty and degrading. Children around the world are being forced into sexual slavery, forced to beg on the streets, forced into dangerous jobs in mines, in agriculture or in sweat shops, forced into marriages and domestic services. Children who survive this fate often go on to have their own children and repeat the cycle, stripping them of all opportunity.

According to the International Labour Organization, at any given time, the 1.2 million children being trafficked for sexual service or labour, makes up half the people being trafficked worldwide. Trafficking is the world's third largest and most profitable organized crime following drugs and arms trade. The impact is obviously devastating. These are real children being exploited, their lives ruined.

Juxtapose that with our youth in Canada, who enjoy abundant opportunity supported by our education, health care, and welfare systems along with the general philosophy that children are our most precious gifts.

Why am I talking about this? It's infuriating to me to say the least. I am devastated and angry at the thought of this reality in our world, this world we share with so many other cultures, countries, and races. Isn't it our responsibility to try to help, to protect youth, to afford them some level of hope so that they may have opportunity for health and happiness in their lives? After all, a child is a child no matter where you go and they are all precious.

Perhaps you have noticed an edgy campaign by World Vision to help make Canadians aware of these real issues. The campaign is shocking. Canadian child actors depict the lives of children working as slave laborers at work in sweatshops, mines and other dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs. In Vancouver and Toronto, storefronts were even set up as live demonstrations of child slave labour. People walking by these displays were mostly filled with shock, awe and disgust that they came across a harsh visual like this while walking by a relatively benign storefront. For most viewers the message was very powerful. At first, you think "poor child actors, having to sit in a store front and do manual labour" but then you think ''poor REAL children who are subjected to this situation daily around the world." One viewer said," it definitely made you stop, you couldn't NOT STOP, to be honest."

The fantastic news is that a growing number of Canadians are willing to pay more for products that are free of child labor (according to a poll released, just prior to the World Day Against Child Labour, June 12) 89 per cent of Canadians say they would pay more, up from 68 per cent last year. That's great news! Thank you Canada!

This campaign is an opportunity for Canadians to learn about child slavery and trafficking. It's not about pity for someone else. It's about motivating and educating Canadians to do something about the situation. You can't solve a problem you don't know exists. Here's what you need to do: 1) be an ethical shopper by looking for logos like Fair Trade international, Rain Forest Alliance, UTZ certified 2) petition your government to take action to end child labor, 3) share information with your friends on Facebook or Twitter 4) learn more at nochildforsale.ca. No child should ever be for sale.

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