Friday 15 April 2011

Paper Bags Game


Aims of the activity:
To reveal some of the pressures that force children into work.
To understand the pressures of trying to survive in an economy with massive unemployment and no social security.
To question our use of the world’s resources.
To look at and debate the ways in which work is organised and the economic systems  exploit vulnerable communities.

Summary of the game:
Participants form ‘family’ groups and imagine they are paper bag makers on the streets of Kolkata.
Each group earns a living making paper bags from old newspapers. During the session, you will distribute chance cards among the groups, representing unexpected changes in the market, which affect their income.
When they have finished making bags, give each group a shopping list of all the essential daily items they need to buy, and ask them to prioritise them.
Each group needs to work out how much they earned and calculate whether they can afford all the essentials on the list.
After the game, ask the groups how they felt during the game, and what they have learned about working together, the real-life conditions for paper bag makers in Kolkata and the economic systems that keep people poor.

Who can play:
The Paper Bag Game is designed for players aged nine and older. It can be played by six or more players (split into groups) and adapted to suit any age group.

PowerPoint Presentation to introduce the game to the students

How to play:

1. Prepare sample paper bags for each group to refer to. You could also prepare a demonstration set showing each step in the process. See instructions: How to make a paper bag.
2. For each group make one photocopy of:
How to make a paper bag
Family shopping list
Will you survive? Maths card.
3. Photocopy and cut out the chance cards (card 2b).
4. Prepare your room so that each group has paste, paper, a sample bag and photocopied sheets.
S/he will need to check each batch of ten bags to make sure they are properly made. Mark each bag clearly when checked to prevent the bag makers taking them back to resell. Pay the group one rupee for each batch of ten bags.

Preliminary discussion
1. Divide the players into groups of four or five. If possible, make sure that each group includes girls and boys.
2. Discuss the following questions (amend for adult groups):
How can children of your age earn money?
How many of you actually do so?
Is the money you earn for yourself, or is it for others (for example, for your family or for solidarity?
If you were allowed to work full time, what sort of work would you want to do? What sort of work would you not be able to do? Why?
How many hours a day/days a week do you think it would be reasonable to work?
How much of your pay would you keep for yourself? How much would you give to your family?

Playing the game
1. Explain that each group represents a family living in a crowded and poor shantytown in Kolkata. There is a huge demand for paper bags, which are mainly made by women and children from the poorest families. Some bag makers buy their paper from warehouses, which are called go-downs. Others collect it free from local households. The glue is made by boiling water and flour, and adding an anti-fungal chemical.
In real life, paper bags are sold in batches of 22, called gistas. On average, one child makes 200 bags a day, earning up to 1.5 rupees per gista – that’s 13 rupees (less than 18 pence) a day. For the purposes of this game, the figure has been rounded up to one rupee per batch of ten bags – meaning that however poor the players feel at the end of the game, the real-life situation for the bag makers is even worse.
2. Tell the groups that they have to survive for a day by making and selling as many paper bags as possible. They have 20 minutes.
Show the groups how to make a bag using a sample bag so everyone can see, then ask them to start making bags.
Each time a batch of ten bags is ready, a group member should take them to the shopkeeper to sell, while the others continue making bags for the next batch.
The shopkeeper checks that each bag is properly made, and pays the group one rupee (one washer) for each batch.
Hand out the chance cards randomly – they change the conditions each group is working under.
Each group keeps its own checked bags. With younger children it is easier if the shopkeeper keeps the bags and notes down how many each group produces.
Note how the groups organise themselves. Some will operate a production line with each member specialising in one task; in other groups individuals will make their own.
When they have finished making bags, don’t let the children wash their hands immediately – point out that bag makers may not have the luxury of soap and water.

How to make a paper bag:
1.       Fold the sides of the paper to the middle, overlapping by about 2cm.
2.       Paste one edge. Stick down the overlapping edge.
3.       Turn up the bottom edge about one-third of the way up the bag. Crease it then unfold it. 
4.       Fold up the bottom corners to the crease. Unfold them.
5.       Tuck the corners up inside the tube. 
6.       You now have a tube with two flaps, A and B.
7.       Fold the upper flap A down on itself to the middle line.
8.       Paste the shaded edge of flap B very carefully.
9.       Fold it over flap A and stick it down.

Note: If you want to strengthen the bag, stick a strip of paper across the bottom.

Family shopping list:

This is a list of essential, desirable and other items that your family needs.

Important: prices for essentials are per person, per day.
Food stuffs:
• cooking fuel      
• vegetables            
• fruit
• rice
Cost: 15 rupees

• shoes
• trousers
• school uniform
Cost: 0.5 rupees

• antibiotics   
• painkillers
• antiseptic for a family member burned by the oil-burning stove
Cost: 60 rupees

• to pay school fees

Cost: 8 rupees                                                 

• for making bags

Cost: 10 rupees                                              

• for mending the home

Cost: 1rupee                                                                                                        

• to visit a sick relative 100km away

Cost: 30 rupees                                         

• celebrations
• festivals 

Cost: 3 rupees                                               

• living with family

Cost: 1rupee                                                  

Most of the people in the world live on less than 1 € a day. That is all they have to support themselves and their families. Most are in developing countries.

Millions of these workers are children.

There are 400 million children aged between 4 and 14 who are forced into different forms of child slavery, which includes prostitution, bonded labour in sweatshops, military service or hazardous industries – for example, where chemicals are used, mining, wars...

Child slaves: the facts

• Around 400 million children are slaves in the developing world.

• Half of them work full-time; half combine work with school, but hardly ever attend classes.

• Asia, the world’s most populous region, has the largest share of slave children (61%), followed by Africa (32%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (7%).

• More than two-thirds of these children are involved in agriculture; the rest work in manufacturing, trade, hottels and restaurants, domestic service, transport, construction and quarrying.

• In some countries, up to 20% of economically active children in rural areas and up to 5% in urban areas are under the age of ten.

There are many reasons why children work. These include:

poverty: the worst cases of child labour involve children from families that are poor, unskilled and illiterate.
the demand for cheap labour, fuelled by growing competition in the global market – children are paid less than the minimum wage. 
social position: differentiation between gender, class, ethnic background and caste can all influence which children are most vulnerable.

After the game:

It’s important to encourage players to talk about their experience after the game as it raises many issues for discussion.

The experience
How many groups managed to earn enough to stay alive? What did this experience show them about life in the shantytowns of India, being a member of a poor family, work skills, supply and demand or anything else?
The work
How did the groups organise their work? Would they have produced more bags if they had worked in a different way? Did the groups compete with each other or did any of them join forces? What were the effects of working in these ways?
Power relations
Why are the shopkeepers so powerful? Who are their equivalents in our global society? Should we allow them to hold onto their power or should we try to challenge it? Why? How? Why do prices rise and fall? Would it be fairer if the workers received weekly wages rather than being paid per batch of paper bags? What does this show about the power within an organised system?

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