This World Day Against Child Labour is a poignant one for me. It's been over three years since I started living as a more conscious consumer, by educating myself about child labour in the products I buy and use. That all started with a little blue dress I bought in England.
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Here in Canada, we know the importance of protecting children, so they have a chance to be children. But in many parts of the world, a child Derrick's age would already be working 12-hour shifts through pain, exhaustion, and abuse.
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People shop at thrift stores for many reasons. I hail from Britain, where second-hand clothing was not a source of shame but a way of life. Here in Canada, our family has a limited budget for clothing, preferring to pay for canoe trips and soccer programs. But the best reason for thrift shopping has less to do with how we look -- and everything to do with the lives we touch.
As a mother, I still check my kids' candy each year, just like my parents did. But nowadays, I'm thinking beyond the safety of the children sitting right in front of me. I'm considering the millions of children who helped produce ingredients for the chocolate bars and colourful candy. My heart feels desperately guilty as I remember how they may have been harmed.
I'm sure that many Canadians would feel a similar outrage, if asked what kinds of jobs their kids should be required to do. So on World Day Against Child Labour, World Vision is asking Canadians a simple question: if child labour is not acceptable in Canada, why should it be acceptable elsewhere?
Luisa spends most of her life on a sweltering treadmill, just to help keep herself and her family alive. It's amazing to think that while we take every precaution to make sure our children stay safe and well hydrated on our hikes and walks, there are children whose very lives depend on their making long, dangerous walks.
Free the Children
According to an Ipsos poll, when shopping for clothes, 76 per cent of Canadians feel stress that they're paying too much for something while just 59 per cent are concerned about child labour. With the sun shining brighter every day, I plunged into my sons' closets last weekend, in search of spring clothes that would still fit them. Sitting there, sipping, I thought of another little boy, one whom I hadn't seen in a while. His name is Jewel.
One day, when anti-child labour activist Iqbal Masih was riding his bike in his hometown, he was shot and killed. Iqbal was 12 when he died. The same age Free the Children's Craig Kielburger was at the time. The same age I am now.
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They're known on television as the Property Brothers. Drew scouts neglected houses and negotiates the purchases, while twin brother Jonathan works magic through renovation. But there's a lot you may not know about Drew and Jonathan Scott and their older brother, JD, including their passion for helping the world's poorest children.
I think about a teenage boy named Bounmy, who left his village in Laos to find work in neighbouring Thailand. He signed on to work on a fishing boat, with the assurance that he would be paid for all of his work once the boat returned to shore. He was tricked.
World Vision Canada
As Canadian consumers, we have the power to help change the plot for the world's children. It lies in the decisions we make about our purchases. Do we contribute to keeping children trapped and enslaved, or do we make the decisions that help set them free? On the World Day Against Child Labour, we must all consider our roles in the story.
Today's products come to you courtesy of a whole string of contractors and subcontractors, each with different employment and safety standards. Moving down the supply chain, you often find children forced to work in brutal, dangerous conditions for very little pay. Hours are so long that many have no chance to continue in school, relegating them to lifetimes of low-paid labour.
Many moms are wakened on Mother's Day by an ominous clattering in the kitchen: your loving-hearted children preparing to surprise you with coffee or hot chocolate in bed. There's also that cinnamon toast or oatmeal positively doused with sugar. What many moms don't realize is that such meals usually come courtesy of a whole crew of children.
One year ago on April 24, the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, crushing the life out of more than 1,100 people. The disaster prompted huge outcry on the streets of Bangladesh, and around the world. As a society of shoppers, we did demand the rock-bottom prices that helped create the demand for cheaper and cheaper labour. I've never felt more culpable than when standing in the ruins of Rana Plaza last week.
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