22 Years After The Declaration of the Rights of the Child, Child Slavery Still On the Rise
20 November is celebrated as the international day for children. The United Nations General Assembly recommended in 1954 -resolution 836 (IX)- that all countries institute a Universal Children's Day, to be observed as a day of understanding between children and of activity promoting the welfare of the world's children. The date of 20 November marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.
Despite this worldwide consensus on the importance of our children, 70% of the approximately 11 million child deaths every year are attributable to six potentially preventable causes: diarrhoea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. These deaths occur mainly in the developing world. An Ethiopian child is 30 times more likely to die by his or her fifth birthday than a child in Western Europe. Among deaths of children, South-central Asia has the highest number of newborn deaths, while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates.
Despite this worldwide consensus, child slavery is still on the rise. There are 400.000.000 child slaves in the world - even one child would be a scandal - but international organisations keep talking about child labour instead of child slavery, sex industry instead of sex exploitation and slavery. They continue dividing figures: child prostitutes, child soldiers, child miners, worst dangerous forms of child labour. All this hypocricy just to achieve the objectives of their agendas and be able to justify their indecent salaries.
When children are not protected, they grow up in a non-supportive culture. Not only are children marginalized, they are actually denied their rights to develop fully in all spheres. They are also denied the opportunities to exercise their rights as useful citizens.
THERE IS NO POLITICAL WILL TO PUT AN END TO CHILD SLAVERY.
CHILD SLAVERY HAS POLITICAL CAUSES. It exists because there is poverty and it generates poverty; it is a vicious cycle. Poverty is not natural but man-made. Child slavery is one spoke on the wheel of global capitalism, where capital prevails over human life. No civilised society can tolerate that children should be deprived of their childhood and be treated like animals. Hundreds of millions of children are victims of human rights violations. They are denied the right to freedom, development, education, and even survival. Millions of them are trapped in slavery and bondage where they are bought and sold like animals. Many young children, especially girls, are forced into prostitution and pornography. Many other young ones are asked to hold heavy guns in their tiny hands and are compelled to become child soldiers. Human trafficking has become the second largest illicit trade in the world after drug smuggling. Children are the worst sufferers.
The struggle in the global economy over what kind of society and people we will become is largely a battle over the hearts and minds of our young people. If we are ever to remake our economy with a human face, the involvement of young people in the fight to end child slavery is absolutely critical.
The goal of educators is to develop and nurture informed and concerned students who will assume responsible roles in civic life. We need to integrate solidarity in critical curriculums. There is an urgent need for a more explicit and deliberate approach to what and how we teach if we are to effectively prepare students to be responsible and active members of a democratic society, with empowered student from both a theoretical and practical perspective.
Paulo Freire called this curriculum “education for a critical consciousness,” which then inevitably becomes a force for social transformation. Freire’s approach to education was deliberate and explicit—learning must be the power for social change. While leaders across the political spectrum will laud the importance of education in a democratic society, few will go beyond the platitudes to challenge the traditional method and content of today’s education.
Simulations, not real-life experience, dominate the classroom. The educational system encourages us to keep it theoretical and academic; students are not ready for the empirical. This approach to education is fallacious and even worse: disempowering. While understanding our political system and our history is imperative, teachers need to move from the theoretical and historical to the empirical. We can extend the experience from learning history to making history. Debates, simulations, computer presentations, mock elections and trials, and so forth... are valuable approaches, but we can and should also move to a different level:
• undertaking awareness-raising activities on the magnitude of child slavery and its effects;
• mobilizing youth and children's associations and promoting their participation in activities against child slavery and other forms of exploitation;
• establishing community forums and sites with the purpose of creating community monitoring networks and sharing information and knowledge on the fight against child slavery;
• and demanding policy makers, law-enforcement bodies, community leaders, media, faith-community leaders, and trade unions take action against all forms of child slavery.