Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Questions on Child Labour Stories

Answer the following questions on separate lined
paper (or typed) in full sentences. (10 marks)

Story #1

How did U.S. students react to Iqbal's visit?

Story #2

Which city and in what year does "Factory Girl"
take place? Why does Emily, age 12, have to work?

Story #3

What happens around the world every June 12th
and why?

Story #4

What's the difference between child workers and child

Story #5

Who is Craig Kielburger and what has he been doing?

Story #6

What does British Columbia's Bill 37 allow?

Story #7

Describe Iqbal's political work and education after
he escaped the carpet factory.

Story #8 (3 marks)

Make a list of three facts or ideas about child labour
you have learned from reading any of the stories in
this blog.


Finally, do you have any suggestions on how you/we can
support an end to child labour?

American students met Iqbal

American Students remember Iqbal's visit

Faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and hardships in his short lifetime, Iqbal Masih stood tall in the face of adversity and rose to become an ardent spokesman against chid labor.When Iqbal Masih visited the Broad Meadows Middle School during his brief visit to the U.S. in December 1994, he shocked and outraged the students with his life story. The 10 to 14-year-olds began an intense letter writing campaign that resulted in 670 letters written to heads of governments where child bonded labor exists. Iqbal was recognised by Forefront, a network of young human rights advocates, and was awarded a Reebok Human Rights Award in 1994.

Iqbal was just 4 years old when he was sold into bondage to a carpet factory owner in Punjab because his father needed a loan to pay for his eldest sons wedding. To repay the loan, Iqbal worked more than 12 hours each day in the carpet factory, but the exorbitant interest rates meant that the debt grew even larger.

At the age of 10, Iqbal attended a human rights meeting, and his life changed radically. He gave an impromptu speech which was printed in the local papers. He refused to return to his owner and managed to obtain his freedom. He spoke in front of large audiences to testify about the realities of life for child bonded labourers and helped many other children to free themselves from bondage. Iqbal Masih was shot dead in his home town of Muridke, Punjab, in April 1995 when he was just 12 years old. His killers have never been brought to justice.

In theory, bonded labour has been abolished in Pakistan. A law abolishing it was passed in 1992, and bonded labour is prohobited under the constitution. Nevertheless, the system of bonded labour persists, and millions of bonded labourers work in agriculture, in the carpet and brick kiln industries and as domestic labour. Many are children. Sometimes bonded labourers are bought and sold by their owners. The practice of bonded labour violates Article 4 of the UDHR prohibiting slavery or servitude. Human beings must not be owned, bought or sold.No one has the right to enslave anyone else. Slavery is a crime.

Anti-Slavery International (ASI) is one organisation that works to help children like Iqbal. ASI has a long history of promoting the eradication of slavery and slavery-like practices, and seeking freedom for everyone who is subjected to them. The abuses which ASI opposes include: slavery and the buying and selling of people as objects; trafficking of women and the predicament of migrant workers who are trapped into servitude; debt bondage and other traditions which force people into low status work; forced labour; forced prostitution; abusive forms of child labour; and early or forced marriage and other forms of servile marriage. ASI focuses on the rights of people who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation of their labour, notably women, children, migrant workers and indigenous peoples.

by Broad Meadows Middle School

Monday, November 17, 2008

Factory Girl

Child Labour and Sweatshops
By Barbara Greenwood

Kids Can Press
Toronto, 2007
136 pages, $16.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-55337-649-1

Review by Ms. Nicol

"So there Emily had stood ever since, shoulder to shoulder with the girls on either side, part of a group of eight around the table, snipping, snipping, snipping, absolutely mute. But would it hurt to smile?" So began the first day of solemn work, almost a century ago, for 12-year-old Emily Watson, who was learning lessons in a Toronto garment factory instead of a Grade 4 classroom.

But Factory Girl, aimed at readers aged 10 and older, is more than an engaging historic tale. Alternating chapters explain the true facts behind the lives of working children. And like in any story told simply and directly, author Barbara Greenwood's blend of fiction, fact and actual photographs of young labourers powerfully illuminates society's capacity to exploit the most vulnerable among us.

The Watson family's troubles begin as the story opens in 1912. The father, who is working elsewhere in Ontario, has stopped sending paycheques to his wife for an unknown reason (disclosed in the closing chapter). The two eldest of the four Watson children are forced to find work. Ernie becomes a street scavenger and Emily reluctantly leaves school too, though her teacher, Miss Henderson, will support Emily throughout the ordeals to come.

When Emily is hired at the Acne Garment Factory, she meets men and women on the assembly line making "shirtwaists" (women's blouses) and other clothing for retail stores such as Eaton's. Emily is a clipper, working alongside girls her age, whose small, nimble fingers are considered useful by garment employers for performing delicate snipping tasks.

Emily discovers that, unlike herself, many factory girls do not have origins in the British Isles. As the author explains, beginning in 1880, impoverished immigrants flooded Toronto from eastern and southern Europe, making the expensive and uncomfortable three-week journey across the Atlantic only to find themselves "stranded in a confusing world where few understood their language and some took advantage of them." Hundreds of these immigrants toiled in Toronto's factories.

Emily makes friends with Magda Takac, helping her with her halting English, both in speaking and reading. In return Magda shows Emily the ropes at work. Employer injustices are chronicled as Emily receives paycheque deductions for making mistakes and deals with the lack of cleanliness and safety on the factory floor.

It takes an interloper, E.D. Harris of the Globe newspaper, to awaken Emily to the need for action against her working conditions. But not before a factory fire leads to tragic deaths. Emily emerges scarred but wiser and stronger.

The book's non-fiction chapters are informative and wide-ranging in scope. Descriptions of old Toronto, for example, include contrasting Emily's neighbourhood with wealthier parts of the city. An actual factory fire that made a difference in the lives of all garment workers is also recounted: that of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in 1911.

Factory Girl concludes with information about children joining the greater trade union struggles and features the legacy of Clara Lemlich, an American garment worker organizer. The author also observes that while the battle against child labour and sweatshop conditions may be won in North America for most children, in other countries, sweatshop conditions still exist.

One of the book's strengths is the many photographs, both Canadian and American. Some of the most striking were taken by Lewis Hine, an American school teacher who began using the camera in 1904 to record the plight of child workers. He captured weary girls and boys. Many look old beyond their years with facial expressions both spirited and pensive. Additionally, a collage of tiny black and white photos of children of the era effectively frame the book's pages.

Readers also learn about the various roles inside the garment factory, where jobs were segregated by age and gender. The clipping girls, Emily among them, were unskilled and underage. Employers found ways to keep them out of sight when inspectors visited. The girls clipped loose threads from finished garments. Teen girls and young women worked as seamstresses. Each operating a sewing machine, they were pushed to work at top speed on one part of a garment. Drappers could be male or female and earned higher wages doing the skilled work of turning a design into a pattern. Cutters and pressers -- workers who cut the patterns and pressed the garments -- were always men.

For women in general at the time, housework, and homework as a seamstress, were considered less desirable jobs. Considered more prestigious were jobs as nurses, teachers, milliners (hat makers), sales clerks, office workers and telephone operators.

Children also worked at textile mills, glass factories, canneries, biscuit and other consumer product factories, and in coal mines.

The fight to improve conditions for children was led by trade unions but also supported by benevolent societies, churches and settlement houses. The author profiles various North American reformers, including Canadian J.S. Woodsworth, who preached about the "sin of indifference."

While the inclusion in this story of influential American reformers in New York and Chicago indicates these issues crossed borders, it may have been equally intriguing if the author had explored similar situations in Montreal, Halifax and Vancouver. And who were the labour leaders in Toronto leading the protest against child labour? These investigations would not only have enriched the readers' knowledge, but also added to Canada's labour history. A short bibliography (including websites) would also have been a helpful addition to the text. Factory Girl does include an index at the back of the book, as well as a short glossary and a brief chronology of the fight for child welfare reform.

Greenwood has written other Canadian history stories for young readers but with this book she offers a unique format and an under-represented topic. She also succeeds in tying together the social issues and protests of the past with the urgent need for awareness and action in the

Her stories, both crafted and factual, will give young readers important ideas and hopefully lead to a compassionate response to the continued harm endured by children in factories and other workplaces around the world.

Ms. Nicol teaches at Killarney Secondary School in Vancouver, and is a member of the B.C. Teachers' Federation.

Reprinted from "Our Times" magazine, 2008

Groups working to stop child labour

World Day Against Child Labour - 12 June

The International Labour Organization (ILO) launched the first World Day Against Child Labour in 2002 as a way to highlight the plight of working children. Observed on June 12th, the day is intended to serve as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labour.

SCREAM: Supporting Children's Rights through Education, the Arts and the Media

SCREAM is an education and social mobilization initiative, to help educators worldwide promote understanding and awareness of child labour among young people

Red Card to Child Labour

In several sporting disciplines, but especially in football, the red card sanctions faults which are liable to exclusion from the field. In 2002, the ILO and IPEC decided to use the symbol of the red card to raise awareness in preventing, challenging and eliminating child labour.

When is child labour wrong? The UN explains

CHILD LABOUR - The United Nations tries to help...

Would you like to carry rocks all day in the hot sun, with no chance to go to school or to hang out with your friends?

All over the world there are children who work for long hard hours, every day. We call these children child labourers. There are 246 million children around the world, most of whom are between the ages of 5 and 14, who labour every day, without the chance to go to school or play with other kids.

Over 40% of child labourers work in Asia, and 20% more work in Africa, but there are child labourers in most every country in the world.

Child work vs. child labour

Like in other countries, in Canada, there are children who have to leave school and get jobs to help their families buy things like food and clothing. They may work in stores or with their families in fields, picking berries. Children and teens in every country work in stores, sell newspapers, babysit, do chores and help their parents. But is this child labour?

There is a big difference between working in a store after school and selling newspapers all day on the street in a busy intersection. There’s a big difference, also, between watching your younger brothers or sisters after school, and taking care of them all day – every day – instead of going to school.

Some kinds of work done by children can teach them important skills, or let them help their families. Other kinds of work can make them sick, keep them out of school, take advantage of them or put them in danger.

Child work becomes child labour when it:

Harms children’s health
Leaves no time or energy for school
Leaves no time for rest and play
Is full time, at too early an age
Gives too much responsibility
Doesn’t pay fairly
Takes away children’s dignity or self-esteem

Child labour specifically refers to all children under 12 who work to make money, those aged 12 to 14 years who do dangerous work, and all children engaged in the worst forms of child labour. The worst forms of child labour include children being enslaved, forcibly recruited, prostituted, trafficked from one country to another, forced into illegal activities and exposed to hazardous work. Of the estimated 246 million child labourers, almost three-quarters work in hazardous conditions, such as working in mines, working with chemicals and pesticides in agriculture or working with dangerous machinery.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says every child under 18 – including you – has the right to education, play, rest, and protection from child labour.

The work that you do at your job, cleaning your room, raking leaves, or shoveling driveways, does not get in the way of your right to be healthy, to go to school and to play. But for some children around the world, the work they do does get in the way of these rights.

Child Labourers do many kinds of work. You may have heard about children who work in factories, making soccer balls, clothing or rugs. These child labourers work for long hours, often in darks spaces without much fresh air.

While there are children who work in factories that make goods for export, most children work in houses doing domestic chores all day, on farms, or in the streets of cities. We call this kind of work ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’ labour because it takes place out of the sight of government. It is especially hard for governments to enforce laws to stop this kind of child labour.

Some of the worst forms of child labour include, child soldiers, child prostitution, slavery and bonded labour (when a child’s labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan). These children experience high levels of exploitation and abuse.

So, why would some parents allow their children to work in these conditions?

Some parents have trouble finding work or they earn very small salaries. Sometimes these parents feel that their children will be able to bring in extra money to augment the family income by working.

Also, some businesses prefer to hire children rather than adults. Many children don’t know their rights, and so employers feel they can take advantage of them by paying them less money, making them work longer hours and making them work in unsafe conditions. There are also myths which exist about children. For example, many people believe that children are better at doing work that requires fine movement such as weaving carpets or rolling cigarettes.

Girls, in particular, often work as domestic servants, which means they do housework all day long for their families or for strangers. Although it is not true, some people believe that girls are better at cooking, cleaning and looking after children than boys. If a family can’t afford to send all their children to school, they will often keep the girls home to help make money for the family or to look after the home while the parents are out working. The girls work long hard hours cooking, cleaning, and looking after their younger brothers and sisters. They are the first to wake up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night, and they often don’t have the chance to go to school or play.


Alezeta is 13 years old and lives in a country called Burkina Faso in West Africa. Every morning at 5:30 am, she wakes up in her mud-brick home and begins her long and tiring day of work. Her day starts by collecting firewood, piling it up on one side of the house, then building a fire to heat water. Alezeta gets out the cooking pots that she’s cleaned the night before and begins to prepare a basic morning meal for her parents, brothers and sisters. Next, she helps to bathe her four younger siblings using a bucket of water.

Alezeta helps her brothers and sisters get dressed for school in the clothes that she washed the day before, and she makes sure that they have their books before they leave. Alezeta doesn’t go to school with her brothers and sisters, and once they have left, she begins the rest of her chores for the day. By 9:00 at night, when Alezeta goes to bed, she has swept the courtyard with a small bundle of twigs, cleaned the house, washed the cooking pots and clothes, hung the clothes out to dry, gone to the market to buy food, collected water from the local water pump, cooked dinner and assembled her siblings’ clothes, books and lunches for their next day of school.

Why does Alezeta have to do all this work while her brothers and sisters go to school?

Alezeta’s father explains. “ I am a poor man”, he says. “I used to work as a driver but I lost my job because they said I was too old. So now, I don’t work very much but I do whatever labour I can to make money. I thought that Alezeta’s twin sister, Haoua, was much stronger than Alezeta, and because I didn’t have enough money to pay for both of them to go to school, I made the choice that only Haoua would go to school. But I really wish I had the money for both of them to go to school full-time”.

In Burkina Faso, there are many girls who don’t get to go to school because they do domestic work all day. Unlike Alezeta, most of the girls work in the homes of strangers or distant relatives as servants, and they rarely get to see their families.

Can you imagine how you would feel if you had to live away from your family and clean a stranger’s home all day?

You wouldn’t be able to go to school or hang out with your friends.



UNICEF is working to help girls like Alezeta who have to work at home or who have to work as domestic servants in the homes of relatives or strangers. Alezeta now gets to attend free classes for two hours every day. These classes are for girls who work as domestics. The girls learn reading, writing, mathematics, sewing, and proper hygiene. They also learn about children’s rights, and they have a chance to meet and play with other children. All the girls in Alezeta’s classes are lucky because their employers have allowed them to come to the classes. There are many girls whose employers think that it is a waste of time for them to go to school, but the teachers are working hard to convince the employers that all children have the right to go to school and to play.

There are also children who don’t get to go to school and who do very dangerous work. Souk is an 8-year-old boy who lives in the People’s Republic of Laos in Southeast Asia. Every night, Souk sleeps on the dusty ground between rows of parked buses. For over two years, the bus station, behind a busy market, has been home to Souk, his mother and his sisters Chane, who is 4-years-old, and Noi, who is two-and-a-half. During the day, Souk and his sisters go to the city’s main square to beg for money and food. Why is begging a dangerous job? Because there are no adults around to look after the children, and the children often work near busy streets. They are also at risk for sexual exploitation, abuse, and kidnapping.

Souk, Chane and Noi

After a day’s begging, Souk, Chane and Noi take everything back to their mother in the evening. But they don’t know how much money they have because neither Souk nor his mother can count. Souk was six when they left their home village, and he never went to school. “I would like to go to school,” says Souk, “I don’t like begging.”
There are many children like Souk and his sisters begging on the streets of Laos.

UNICEF helps to ensure that street children get to see a doctor or nurse, get to go to school and get the healthy food they need. An outreach programme in Laos is working with Souk and other street children to make sure that their rights are met. The workers are hoping that Souk and his family can return to their village where they would be better off, away from the dangerous job of begging on the streets and in a place where they could go to school.

Adults are responsible for providing children with their basic needs, and all children have the right to be protected from child labour. But in some cases, children may be left without adults to care for them. For example, in communities where many adults have died because of war or HIV/AIDS, older children may be forced to work to provide for themselves and their younger brothers and sisters. For these children, the best solution is to get rid of the most harmful aspects of their work, so they can continue to earn enough money to survive, and they can enjoy their other rights, like the right to education.

Child labour is a complex issue that is very much tied to the issues of poverty, education and other rights of children.

Craig Kielburger - Free the Children

What happened when a student in Toronto read about Iqbal --

Free The Children was founded by 12-year-old Craig Kielburger in 1995 when he gathered 11 school friends to begin fighting child labour. Today, Free The Children is the world's largest network of children helping children through education, with more than one million young people involved in our programs in 45 countries.

In April 1995, looking for the comics section of his local newspaper, 12-year-old Craig Kielburger came across an article which forever changed his life. The piece featured the photo of a boy in a bright red vest, his fist clenched defiantly in the air, Intrigued, Craig read the story of Iqbal Masih, a young boy from Pakistan, who was sold into slavery to work in a carpet factory.

Iqbal worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, tying tiny knots to make hand-made carpets for export. Through luck and bravery, he managed to escape from his life of captivity and began speaking out about children's rights; educating eager listeners about child labour. Tragically, after reuniting with his family, Iqbal was shot and killed by those who wished to silence him. Iqbal lost his life for defending the rights of children.

Before he read Iqbal's story, Craig had never heard of child labour. He wasn't even certain where Pakistan was, but the differences between his life and that of Iqbal shocked him. Craig knew that he had to help. He gathered together a small group of his Grade 7 classmates and Free The Children was born.

The following year, in an attempt to focus the world's attention on the epidemic of global child rights abuses, Craig embarked on an ambitious fact-finding mission to South Asia. In a press conference held in Delhi, India, Craig challenged the world to take notice of the stories and voices of child labourers everywhere. The media buzz that ensued brought the issue of child labour to the forefront of global debate. Craig's journey, sparked by Iqbal's heroic tale, proved that young people have the power to make a difference in the world.Today, Free The Children is a children's charity unlike any other in the world. It is an organization funded and driven by the energy of young leaders and adult supporters. In a cooperative effort, we are changing the world.

BC child labour laws

British Columbia's child labour laws now trail those of India

Hiring children as young as 12 remains legal in one of Canada's richest provincesVictoria (13 Aug. 2006) - British Columbia's child labour laws are so bad they now lag behind those of India, which has just banned the hiring of children under 14 as domestic servants or as employees at hotels, tea shops, restaurants and resorts.Official government figures put the number of child labourers in India at 11 million. The actual figure is probably closer to 60 million, according to India's Save the Childhood Movement.Yet the new standard, adopted by one of the world's poorest and most populous countries, is better than the child labour laws now on the books in B.C., Canada's wealthy West Coast province.

The B.C. government, headed by Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell, brought international shame to Canada by passing one of the most regressive pieces of "labour" legislation in modern memory. Bill 37 was approved on Oct. 8, 2003. It permits the hiring of children under the age of 12 to 15 with the written consent of a child's parent or guardian. In fact, it even allows the hiring of children under the age of 12 with the consent of the province's "director of employment standards" - a government official whose duties are set out in the B.C. Employment Standards Act.Shameful minimum wageBesides legalizing child labour, Bill 37 also lowered the province's minimum wage to $6 an hour ($5.35 US) - the lowest in Canada - by establishing a two-tiered "minimum" rate.The $6 "first job/entry level" wage applies to new employees in the work force. They are exempted from qualifying for the second-tier $8 minimum wage until they have worked at least 500 hours with more than one employer.

The B.C. law has been condemned by organizations across Canada and beyond, including the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and its largest B.C. component, the British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU).

Excerpt from the Employment Standards Act of British Columbia:

Hiring children 9 (1) A person must not employ a child under 15 years of age unless the person has obtained the written consent of the child's parent or guardian. (2) A person must not employ a child under 12 years of age without the director's permission.(3) On permitting the employment of a child under 12 years of age, the director may set the conditions of employment for the child.(4) An employer must comply with the conditions of employment set under subsection (3).

More information:• British Columbia Employment Standards ActB.C. Liberals present new gift to business - child labour

Web posted by NUPGE: 13 August 2006