New Orleans The International Labor Organization declares today the Day of the War against Child Labor. I posted pictures from the BBC website of child workers from India, thinking about the waste pickers we are organizing there.
This was on my mind because Judith Francorsi, an Australian journalist now living in Mumbai, asked me about this same, hard question on Skype just this week while working on the Dharavi book supporting Acorn International. How do we reconcile the fact that we are working for living wages for ragpickers and so much of the work is done by families including children who normally we would hope would be in school?
I could only answer that when I met with more than 100 ragpickers along the border last year between east Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, the leaders wanted to talk to us for a minute after the meeting. They had two primary concerns: (1) that their livelihood not be privatized, and (2) that a teacher be found for their children so that they could learn after work.
Families desperate for survival try to balance these issues delicately. They have to eat, but they also want to feed their minds and their futures. They cannot be sentenced to starvation, when there is no adequate public support that provides a floor against deprivation, as is the case in India, but all needs must be balanced.
The ILO’s call for a war against such conditions may be the right message so that families no longer have to watch their children face the same wants in their futures that they have faced in the harsh reality of these times.