Right now, over 200 million children work long hours in poor conditions to feed themselves and/or their families. Almost 75 percent of those children are working in the worst forms of child labor — trafficking, armed conflict, slavery, prostitution and hazardous work. Poverty is the sole cause of this type of exploitation because poor families have no other choice if they want to survive.
In 1999, the International Labour Organization’s Convention 182 set a goal to set international legal standards to protect all children from the worst forms of child labor by 2016. As of April 2007, 163 ILO member countries ratified the convention, agreeing to provide and enforce these legal standards. Unfortunately, 14 ILO member countries —Afghanistan, Burma, Cuba, Eritrea, Guinea-Buissau, Haiti, India, Kiribati (Republic of), Sierra Leone, Soloman Islands, Somalia, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan —have still not ratified it. Because of these countries’ refusal to participate, the ILO published a report last year saying that the international 2016 goal will not be achieved.
While the child labor movement has come a long way, there is still a lot to be done, especially in bringing about awareness of the issue. The Tides Center’s project, Child Labor and the Global Village: Photography for Social Change, is doing just that.
A team of 11 photographers are photographing child workers around the globe. Through their photos, they hope to illustrate the conditions and raise awareness of the problem to people that can do something about it: politicians, business people and consumers. The photos from the project are part of an on-going exhibit, traveling across the world from the U.S. congress to Bangladesh. You can see some of the photos here, or you go visit one of their exhibitions, listed here. Hopefully it will encourage you to join the cause and help give those 200 million children a chance at having a childhood.
If you’re interested in joining the cause, check out the Global March Against Child Labour to see how you can help.