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  • Teacher-Writer

Do you have a slavery footprint?

Manoj (name changed) is a 12-year-old child living and working for more than 12 hours a day, in a room that is half the size of your classroom with two small windows for air and light. He is living here with 12 other children and they spend their whole day stitching school bags to be sold in markets in other cities. He was brought here 3 years ago when he was looking for work during the pandemic to help his family. Since he has come, he has not been able to send home any money since he has been trapped in this situation of exploitation and modern slavery by an employer who ‘bought’ him from an agent.

There are many children like Manoj who are trapped as child labourers in hundreds of rooms like this across the country. 64 such children were rescued in Hyderabad and sent back to their families as part of Operation Smile. While they will all need time to recover from the physical and emotional harm they have experienced before they are able to smile and play freely again, thankfully they are no longer trapped in this situation of exploitation or modern slavery.

Any product that has exploitation in its process of production, transport or sale is said to have a slavery footprint. This means that people who have worked on this product have been caused harm, exploited, forced to work and not been given the pay they deserve for their hard work. Among the G20 nations, India tops the list with 11 million people working as forced labourers, followed by China, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey and the U.S.

It is important to recognize that each one of us that uses a product that has a slavery footprint is also a part of the problem. While the government and non-government bodies will work to prevent child labour and rescue those trapped in exploitation, we can also help reduce the demand for such products. Whether it is chocolate or cotton or sugarcane, child labourers are often working on these fields. Firecrackers, incense sticks, carpets, glass and bangles are some of the products that have children working in factories. Children are also often seen in restaurants and hotels, brick kilns, fisheries and mining. 

We must begin by asking questions on where our products come from? Where are they made? Who made them? Was it a child or an adult? Did the person who made them get a fair price for his or her work? It is time we begin to ask difficult questions and make responsible choices in our lives so everyone has the freedom to live their lives without exploitation.

Written by Neha Pradhan Arora

Activity that accompanies this news report

Objective - To help students understand the exploitation that happens in the production of everyday products

Intended outcome - At the end of the activity students will be able to decode the label on products and look for relevant information about the slavery footprint of the product. They will then be able to ask relevant questions or seek relevant information for other everyday products.

Materials required - 

  • Worksheet 

  • AV support to show the Fair Trade website 

Activity duration - 1 period (30 - 40 minutes) 

Facilitation notes - 

Distribute copies of the worksheet to each child and display it on the Projector / Smart Class if possible. 

As a process, have a child read out the question, explain it and then discuss the possible responses. 

Encourage children to record responses as you give individual support where needed. 

Encourage discussion on the new terms to ensure they have been understood. 

At the end of page 1, encourage children to read the label and respond independently, following this up with discussion. 

Explain the examples given on the second page with additional information of other products and campaigns of change as shared in ‘Not in Harry’s name’ or the Fair Trade campaigns.

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