by Matilda Branson
Working in gender issues, I sometimes push the children’s rights stuff to the side for UNICEF or Save the Children to deal with, or leave the child labour issues in the hands of the International Labor Organisation. I put it all into a mental box labelled “child rights stuff”, separate to all the gender and women’s rights things I work on day to day.
But ye gods, surely this is the Achilles’ heel of international development, the old approach of silo-ing everything into separate fields – women’s rights separate to children’s rights, water and sanitation separate to education, public health separate to economic empowerment. It’s crazy because everything overlaps, and a holistic approach has to be the name of the game, right? Of course child rights issues cross-cut gender and equality.
Sweat shops in India, child soldiers in Uganda, child pornography, the exploitation of children… In the world of international development, working side-by-side with child-focused organisations like World Vision and UNICEF and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and child-specific Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) like MDG 2 – “Achieving universal primary education” or MDG 4 “Reducing child mortality rates”– it sometimes seems that “children’s issues” are the easiest to tackle. There’s a reason sponsor-a-child campaigns are so successful – no one likes to let kids suffer and so many interventions for kids are needs-based.
Yet last month, I went on a monitoring visit to a brick kiln factory on the outskirts of Kathmandu in Nepal where I work, with an organisation named Animal Nepal, to investigate the working conditions of the many donkeys, mules and small ponies which cart devastatingly heavy loads of unbaked bricks to and from the huge chimney-like brick kiln to be cooked.
Brick kiln factories are where the bricks that are building a rapidly urbanising Kathmandu are made. But the cruel animal labour aside, horrible enough within itself, these factories are also home to young seasonal labourers –as young as six-years-old. These workers are young kids from poor rural families desperate to earn money, children sent as bonded labourers, or children living in poverty from India who hear through a middleman that they can make a buck over the border in Kathmandu. These are the children upon whose backs the brick industry is built in Nepal. Read more