What do you remember of your childhood? Of running with the wind, of playing with your favourite toy, of skipping along the beach, of stroking the head of your beloved dog? What if we told you that the choices you’re making as an adult are stripping away someone else’s childhood?
This is the essence of what is captured in The Price Of Free, a hard-hitting documentary directed by Derek Doneen that underscores child trafficking, child labor and child slavery. It shows how children are toiling in factories, sweatshops and farms to make goods for our consumption. Everything from cotton to coffee beans, bracelets to bananas, which we use thoughtlessly every day are being made by children as young as five.
Fortunately, where there is wrong there is Kailash Satyarthi, whose work over the last 40 years—as shown in the film—has saved 88,000 children in India and won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
“The vicious cycle in which the children are trapped can only be broken through external intervention like governments, law makers, civil society, businesses, faith leaders, teachers’ organisations, trade unions, youth organisations, etc,” says Satyarthi. “Governments and corporate houses must ensure that decent working conditions prevail for all adults, so they’re able to efficiently dispose their responsibilities towards children and contribute as productive individuals enhancing the GDP of the country. Lawmakers have to ensure that education for all children is a universal right and reflects in the legislative framework of the country. Civil society must extend cooperation to the government for effective implementation of the law. It’s absolutely essential for businesses to ensure that there are no human rights violations in their supply chains.” He would know. His team’s impact on policy has helped shrink India’s child workers from 12 million to 4 million.
And what can we do as consumers? “Compassion is the first trigger,” says Satyarthi. “A compassionate consumer will not refrain from asking brands tough questions to ensure there’s no child labour in their supply chains. Ethical consumerism has the power to shape the way products are bought and sold across the globe.”
So, “The next time you see that little girl carrying bags in a mall or serving you tea at your friends home, don’t accept it. Don’t accept a glass of water at any restaurant that employs children. Don’t accept this normalisation of abuse in the garb of ‘giving them a better life’.”
“Take the pledge: Not in my home. I will neither employ a child nor allow the employment of children in my community or neighbourhood. These steps will go a long way in instituting a safe and promising world for our children,” he says.
Tens of thousands of children from vulnerable tribal communities in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and other parts of the country, some as young as five, are sold as slaves every single day in India. The responsible choices we make as consumers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and business leaders can help determine whether 152 million children can have a real childhood away from forced slavery. The move to end this, begins with us.