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.
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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs