A hypocritical condemnation

December 06, 2017

What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear the term “child labour”? You probably think “Oh! Those poor children!” but have you ever actually tried to do something about it?

Have you ever wondered who makes all those clothes you love wearing every day? Of course, we all love a good shop- a significant chunk of your pocket money probably goes on the latest high street labels. Although that new top you bought may look so good hanging in the wardrobe, would you be so chuffed if you knew who made it? You may think that having to empty the dishwasher, tidying up your room, or having to mow the lawn for your pocket money is an arduous task but trust me it’s not. Well then, what are your thoughts about working 12 hours a day in a dirty, crummy factory just for a few hundred rupees or maybe not even that in some scenarios?

It is very easy to quote statistics that “over 12.5 million children in Pakistan are involved in child labour” or to say, as in a recent statement issued, “this staggering number requires immediate action by the federal and provincial governments.” Taking it a step further, putting the entire blame on their parents and in a very guilt free manner saying “their choice” may sound like the right thing. But it is such arguments that hold us even more responsible for their sufferings.

With everyone working to bring about change, this so-called “revolution” that we continuously hear of, and stating their opinions through actions, condemning child labour while you sip on a china teacup is no better than how those vain factory owners are hiring underage children.

Having said this, I think we all can agree that this problem is real and is indeed a problem, but the question that remains is that how can we as a nation and a progressive society overlook the fact that power lies in our very own two hands. By the time the sun sets, it is up to us whether we use that power or instead focus on producing heartless machines for generations to come.

On the other hand, you could also take it through a different route by writing about the pain a child labourer faces later in life. Physical wounds heal eventually. But forcing an 8-year-old boy to work in a steel mill so that he can have a roof to sleep under at night causes greater pain. The child not only deals with the physical trauma but also has to cope with the mental and emotional trauma that is like text on a rock. He comes to believe that working in such conditions is the norm. Therefore, he begins to accept it as his reality, and that is where we as a society fail.

At this point, some of us may argue that we’re not the ones employing them in factories. Have we ever realized that even we as educated individuals have them working for us in our houses, in a job no better than what I, rather anyone with a heart, would regard no better than an equivalent to slavery? Similarly, a factory worker enforcing long, tiresome hours on that poor 8-year-old soul is classified as “inhumane”; whereas, it is okay for us to break that same kid’s heart by denying him his basic rights or providing him with a good quality education and all for what? Only for he can fetch you a glass of water or shine your shoes when you return home!

For this, we have no one to blame but ourselves. It is we who allow it to happen by behaving passively. In a matter of all honesty, you can’t give that 8-year-old boy his childhood back but at least you can give him his future, you can give him a chance at creating his reality rather than he having his fate chosen for him. So, the only way to put an end to this brutality is by joining hands together and standing up for these children- our children, the nation’s children.