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Despite some earnest progress, workers, including children, are still being exploited. Big factories that supply major brands are better regulated, but many of the smaller operations -- just one link down in the supply chain -- are still engaging children in some of the worst forms of child labour.
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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.
Child trafficking means boys and girls miss out on going to school because they are being forced to work in homes as domestic servants, or as labourers in mines. It means young girls lose the freedom to choose their futures because they are being forced to work as sex workers. It means children's lives are put at risk because they are being forced to fight in militia groups. It means the most basic of human rights are violated. A future is stolen.
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Which companies are better at checking their chains for child and forced labour? And what are they doing to respond? World Vision's report helps answer many of these questions. By tracking supply chains of Canadian companies, the researchers identify which have a likelihood of being connected to child and forced labour.
While shopping, looking at my purchased items makes me wonder: Where were they made? Who made them? And under what conditions? However, it wasn't until recently that I reminded myself that perhaps the items I was purchasing for myself and my children were made by children themselves.
I know that global trade is critical to raising many poor families out of poverty -- as in the Bangladeshi families noted above. But the economic model I want to see more of is one where strong local economies around the world are meeting people's needs in a sustainable and healthy way.
Abject poverty and a sick father has forced Bithi's family to send their two oldest daughters to the garment factories to sew designer clothes that will be sold in shops in Canada, the United States and other high-income countries. Every day, Bithi helps create a minimum of 480 pair of pants, earning the equivalent of about $1.20.
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What most athletes don't think about as they're competing is our responsibility after the big win. I didn't realize at the time that an Olympic medal would mean I could one day make a difference in the world, just by lending my name to a cause.
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On Mother's Day, I look at my kids and think how blessed I am. Not just because I've had a chance to raise them, with all of the love, pride and fun that brings to my life. But because doing so has been a joyful experience. I've been able to nourish them, keep them warm, and send them off to school in the morning.
The truth about chocolate is tough to swallow. My heart aches for the two million children, mainly in West Africa, who work on cocoa plantations. Far too many of them toil under slave-like conditions, forced to handle dangerous chemicals, and swing machetes sharp enough to maim. Most are paid next to nothing. Some are abducted from their homes and forced to work for free without the opportunity to go to school, forfeiting dreams for the future.
Canadians travelling to warm spots this March Break may be approached by child labourers selling trinkets or souvenirs. In El Salvador, this young girl carries heavy basket of water bottles to peddle to tourists. So what should Canadians do, if they encounter a child who seems to be in danger? Many of us are so concerned about misreading a situation, or imposing our own Canadian views on another way of life, that we do nothing. We may comment about how sad the situation is, and then move along.
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Working with World Vision, I know that too much chocolate available in our stores comes at the heartbreaking expense of some 2 million children worldwide. Here are some of the things I've done this year, to keep the fun in Valentine's Day and honour those I love, while caring for children around the world:
While many believe slavery is an issue of the past, it remains a real, yet largely hidden, problem. An estimated 35.8 million people are enslaved worldwide, according to a recent report by the Walk Fr...
While I'm wishing away my son's soccer match for this evening, these children in Armenia are rejoicing that World Vision has built a soccer pitch in their community. They no longer have to play on a small piece of rocky land.