None of us would knowingly purchase a product made by a child, or by an exploited teenager forced to work 14 hours a day under harsh sweatshop conditions for just pennies an hour. Only we do not know it, because the manufacturers of brand-named goods refuse -- and are not legally required -- to release even the names and addresses of the factories they use around the world to make the goods we purchase. It is easier, for them, to abuse children and to exploit teenagers in hidden sweatshops. And harder, for us, to find the information we need to make critical choices about what we buy.
People have the right to know. We need full public disclosure by these companies of all the names and addresses of the factories they use around the world.
Here's something else people generally don't know: the label on your shirt, shoe, sports equipment, or handbag often has more rights and protections than the child who sewed it in. Under current trade rules, the label, the trademark, the logo, and the product are all protected under enforceable intellectual property and copyright laws backed up by sanctions. Every company says they could not operate in the global economy without such rules and regulations. They tell you they need a level playing field.
Yet when you ask these same corporations to extend reasonable protections on the safety, dignity, and survival of those workers who manufacture their exalted products, they respond: "That would be an impediment to free trade." We need to rewrite these rules so that the child has at least the same legal protections the product enjoys.
But boycotts are not the answer. Workers in the developing world desperately need these jobs, and they are willing to work very hard, only they want to be treated as human beings and not animals. We must find a way to hold our corporations accountable, to respect human and worker rights, and pay fair wages. No father, mother or older sister earning anywhere near a subsistence-level wage will send their young daughter or sister into a sweatshop. Families want their children to go to school, and if older family members earn a fair wage, that is where they will be.
Finally, we are not going to get there by sitting on our backsides at conferences. We need to be out on the streets creating a social movement. That is why I am joining a new coalition of labor, religious, student, women's and human-rights organizations and developing world unions to launch, in September, the Campaign for the Abolition of Sweatshops and Child Labor.
Together, we can get there. We have more power than we realize to remake our global economy with a human face. To get involved, go to www.AbolishSweatshops.org and sign up to express your dedication to ending sweatshop and exploitive child labor, and to receive updates on the campaign as its launch draws near.
Join us! Add your voice to the rising chorus of human beings who believe the corporate exploitation of people for profit has gone on long and far enough.
Topic : Sweat Shops Posted By : Anita Posted On : June 17, 2002
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Re : Abolish Sweatshops! By biren shah on May 28, 2007
i am writing this because i agree with the basic tenet of saving children from forced labour - exploitation for economic gains.
and i feel we should be able to do something to change it.
my views may seem opposing, which they are not; and insensitive, which they may be, but they are what i belive with a heart.
i see child labour in two tones - forced, and by choice (we may argue about the choice children have, and reach no conclusion... or, we may just go ahead and talk with them to know their views)
forced labour is where the child has no say and he is forced by parents or guardians (or even the government and institutions) - which, by the way also happens in our homes, when we ask our children to do their chores.
'by choice' - however unfair or limited the choices may seem to be - is another.
i used to feel the same way abour people who employed children, to save on labour costs.
then, i saw the alternatives the children had - abusive, exploitative parents, hunger, dependency issues, etc. (even schools were worse). i have seen children suffer in schools, while whistling away as they work.
i have seen children feeling free and independent when they work, and fretting when they have been 'helped' - by freeing them from the merchants who hired them.
this doesnot mean that working is a better option. it just means that the issue is not as simple as it is made out to be.
freeing children from 'labour' is something we cannot, and shouldnot do without THEM being a part of the process.
in deciding FOR them, we are practicing another form of 'no-choice'.
and i have come to know this through my own zealous follies.
i am a very ordinary person, having nothing major to claim as a way of helping kids. but the miniscule effort that i had put in, has taught me that what i think is good for kids,may not be so... and i will never be able to know it with all my righteous, so-called sensitive and compassionate heart.
one child i tried to free had to wake me out of my righteousness. thankfully, he showed me a better way - a way he would prefer. he asked me, not to take away his work, but to give him more and free his time so that he could pursue his study.
Gandhi (mahatma, to us in india), is conveniently remembered for what serves our purpose at a given time - non violence.
he also was a proponent of self reliance. and he inspired children to clean even the toilets - public ones too.
so, if work, per se, is not to be opposed, why so much mental violence against 'work-for-money'?
we take it for granted that if children are made to work, it HAS to be against their wish, and only a hard hearted man will hire children.
i have seen many a kind hearted man hire children - even at the expense of efficiency and better profits - to make them self-reliant, economically independent and help them take on responsibilities that life has thrown their way, in the most compassionate way possible.
and i have also seen children suffer because of 'child-labour' laws, which threw them out of their earnings and left them with nothing to meet their responsibilities. some had disable parents.
all i am trying to say is, lets not rush into this with the first flush of blood, which rises not because of compassion for children, but out of rage against 'exploitative businesses'.
let not the hate for such people guide us, but love for the children guide us.
when we focus on children, and not on the right-eous shoulds, we will become open to asking them, talking with them... about what and how they feel.
give children the credit they deserve. they are far more wise and able and resilient than we want to believe.
if this is hard to believe, just remember what we did with women in our society, on the pretext of branding them as weaker sex and fragile - to keep them under control and wraps.
i hope instead of having hurt your sensibilities, i have been successful in showing a crack of light - from a door that seemed to be closed.
"In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith." -- Fullbright