Young People and Human Rights: Art Comp

Rights of Passage - 2005 competition

Child Labour

By Eva Cheng, 13, NSW RUNNER-UP star

Every single human being has human rights. All children have the right to an education and probably all Australian kids take this right for granted. Many children do not realise that somewhere on the other side of earth there is a kid, just as old as they are, living in extreme poverty and a harsh environment. We Australians are very lucky to have a place to live, have food to eat, and have clothes on our backs, as there are millions of children around the world yearning for a life like ours.

The only work we have to do here is the work we are given at school, and that work is educational. We don't have to work long hours to try and support our families, and we don't have to give up school to earn money. This is not so in other countries. There are an estimated 246 million children around the world who are involved in child labour.

Child labour refers to employing children who are underage (under the age of physical maturity) to do jobs requiring long hours. These children have to work to support their families and most of them can't read or write because they've never attended school.

The vast majority of the children engaged in child labour work in dangerous work conditions and environments. Working in such workplaces often puts the child's health and social development at risk. Normally, workplaces employing underage children hide these children and give them jobs like working as a servant in a home or doing something where no-one will recognise them, as it is illegal because it is violating the child's human rights. Although most of the children are given trivial pay for long hours, some children don't even get paid. Many female children work as domestic servants and are prone to exploitation and abuse. Some families are so desperate for money they send their kids off to work in the prostitution and pornography industries.

Case: Sylvia in Tanzania worked as a domestic servant. Despite only being a young teenager, she worked long hours cooking, cleaning and doing the majority of household chores. She was made to sleep on the floor, was only given leftovers to eat and was not paid for her labour. When one of the men in the household severely beat her for refusing his sexual advances, she fled. A neighbour referred her to the local organisation Kivulini which provided her with safe shelter and compensation from her 'employer'.

After reading this case I was extremely angry and upset at the person who "employed" Sylvia. They didn't care about her rights as a human, and treated her like she was dirt. They didn't even pay her for all the chores she did for them. I really felt sorry for the poor little girl, having her rights abused at such a young age. No-one should have to work at such a young age and receive no pay. Everyone has the right to refuse to do anything they do not feel comfortable with (for example, sexual advances) and nobody should have to eat only leftovers and sleep on the floor. I'm glad that Sylvia ran away and was referred to Kivulini, as her life would have been much worse with her "employer".

I think it is wrong to force a child into work, and I feel that all those people employing underage children are ruthless and should think about what they are doing. Why should someone as equal as me have to work long hours in harsh conditions, get little or no pay, and not receive an education?