News / Asia

In India Some Families' Economic Survival Relies on Forced Child Labor

Sabina, 13, is forced to do textile work for her family's economic survival in Rashkali, India.
Sabina, 13, is forced to do textile work for her family's economic survival in Rashkali, India.

Multimedia

Kurt Achin

June 12 marks the World Day Against Child Labor sponsored by the International Labor Organization.  The annual occasion is meant to draw policy attention to the more than 200 million children around the world who work full time, many in sweatshop conditions.   But not all child labor situations are black and white cases of exploitation.  Some underage textile workers in India are often crucial to their families' economic survival.

In the predominantly Muslim village of Rashkali, about 50 kilometers south of Kolkata, this is how many children spend much of their lives.

They are workers in the industry of zari - decoratively embroidered textile products, aimed mainly at export markets.

Bead by bead, tiny hands painstakingly stitch the ornate fabric.  Nearly half of the town's work force is made up of children between eight and 15 years old.  Some of them begin learning to use the needle as early as four or five years old.

"On school days I work for four to five hours usually. I work for 12-14 hours the day I don't go to school. I enjoy doing zari work. My father cannot earn enough, because he is sick. When I turn 19 or 20 years old, my parents will use the money I earn to marry me off to a husband."

Zari production in this town is often home-based, and children often work alongside family members.  The conditions are not as harsh as those encountered in India's dense urban centers, nor as dangerous as those faced by children in industries like mining for precious metals.  But grinding poverty and limited opportunities have forced many of these young people to grow up much faster than they normally would, taking their place among child laborers which number, according to various estimates, between 20 and 50 million in India.

"I left school to work. My brother is at the top of his class and he wants to become an engineer," said one young zari worker. "But we may not be able to keep him in school that much longer. Now he works for three to four hours with us every day when he is in school.  On days he is not in school, he works for 15 to 16 hours."

"My father is dead. The family depends on my mother's work.  So I have to help my mother in her zari work every day for three to four hours. But I also love to study," said Ashique, 8.

Tedious hours of zari production rob many children of time they might better spend studying, or simply playing and enjoying their youth.   But many families simply see no other choice.

"I am blind and unable to work. We are very poor.  My daughter-in-law is doing zari work to support the family.  Every day my grandson has to work for three to four hours to support his mother. It's affecting his schoolwork. We have no other way.  I feel very sad," said the head of one household.

The United States and other Western countries have sought to tailor their import policies to refuse the products of child labor like the zari textiles produced in Rashkali.   Such steps may cause pain, at least in the short run, for families dependent on the measure of economic security produced by the zari work of its youngest members.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid