Child Labor: How 30 Seconds Can Stop the Slavery
Did you know that human trafficking is the third largest illegal industry after guns and drugs?
Think about your job. Imagine if you worked 15 to 16 hours a day. Every day. Now imagine if you didn't have a choice. You were taken from your family. You were provided meager living conditions and little food. And, for all those hours, you got $5, maybe $10, a month. A month! With that money, you may be able to buy a few cookies or a ball to play with. And that's it.
Today is my fifth day in India. I'm here with Aveda, who has graciously sponsored my trip as part of a larger corporate program to visit villages where they have helped purify the water systems. One such village is an Ashram run by the BBA organization and is dedicated to the rehabilitation of children rescued from child labor.
For those of you who have seen the recent flick starring Julia Roberts, Eat Pray Love, you are familiar with the term Ashram. But, if you're anything like me, you walked away thinking of them related with people trying to find themselves—a spa-like experience sans the expensive massages. And while an Ahshram, per Wikipedia is a sanctuary where people go to dedicate themselves to meditation, music, or religious study, the Ashram we visited is like a sanctuary from the hellacious places these kids had found themselves for a few months and oftentimes, years.
I'm not going to lie to you, this entire topic is one I can't easily write about. It feels a little simpler to just share the facts. The truth? My visit was heart wrenching. 100 boys, recently (as in within 2 weeks) rescued. Trying to learn to trust adults again. Having grown-up conversations with their friends about things like sexual abuse and how much their purchase price was.
I looked into the eyes of these kids—boys the same ages as mine—boys that had been completely robbed of their childhood and I had to turn away to keep from crying in front of them.
Steps to Preventing Child Labor
When wondering what in the world I could do to make a difference, these simple steps made the overwhelm subside and caused me to feel hope:
- Get behind a strong leader. One leader with passion and conviction can positively influence change one baby step at a time. The BBA started with one leader. Today is employs nearly 200 people and has 80,000 volunteers in India and Nepal. We don't always have to be the leader to impact change. Sometimes standing behind a strong leader is more powerful and proves the old addage of 1+1=3.
- Partner with the right organizations and brands. Ask yourself: "What are my values? What is my mission? What causes do I support?" Then, align yourself with the organizations and brands that support those things. If a brand is committed to not purchasing products from suppliers who use child labor, then you are making a difference every time you make a choice to purchase that product over another one. It seems simple. It may not feel like it impacts huge change. But, we are talking about a human life. Every child saved from slavery is HUGE!
- Give an extra 30 seconds. When I asked Bhuwan Ribhu, National Secretary of and activist for the BBA, what he would tell the busy mom to do to make a difference in the area of human trafficking, his simple answer was: "Tell her to take 30 more seconds and ask the question: 'Was this product made using child labor?' If so, do not buy it." Brands like Aveda, Patagonia, Timberland, and others are very open about their policies where that is concerned. All it takes is a question and a few seconds of research to know.
So, while it may seem simple, 30 seconds can stop slavery one child at a time. Look at this picture. These boys are getting in a car to be reunited with their families. In the 30 years BBA has been in operation, they have rescued more than 79,000 children.
All it takes 30 seconds to commit to following a strong leader. It takes 30 seconds to choose to support brands who align with your mission and values. And it takes 30 seconds to ask a simple question: "Was this product made using child labor?" And it takes 1 second to NOT buy it if it was.
What can you do in 30 seconds this week to positively change the world?