Child Labor hysteria: KIDS organize THEMSELVES and SPEAK UP. Can you listen?
You might think that adults, seriously bent on ending the oppression of children, would take a close interest in children present [at a recent international conference of adults and younger people on child labor,] who had so triumphed over their own oppression as to become articulate advocates for their own cause.
In light of the building movement AGAINST ALL meaningful participation by young people under 18 to work (or to be equals in ANY way with their adults), which we see all over the u.s. and many parts of the world, the voices of actual kids, and not just their "kindly" adults, are finally been heard a tiny bit.
Will this awareness move the "anti-child labor" groups from their emotive tasks? Will a 14,000-member young peoples' UNION, run and led by kids actually speaking for themselves, unaided by multi-million dollar funding and slick propaganda techniques, make a difference? Not if the smooth machinery of propaganda as usual continues running its course.
Take the recent motions in and around Chicago:
An office is being established at the School of Social Work at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (www.social.uiuc.edu). The office, working under a Department of
Labor grant and in collaboration with the National Consumers League (www.nclnet.org) and the Child Labor
Coalition (www.stopchildlabor.org), is planning to start by establishing a website as an on-line resource. A
meeting was held in Chicago on Dec. 1 to begin planning the center. The center, according to an introductory
brochure, aims "to assist scholars in teaching the next generation of business leaders, farmers, educators,
social workers, economists, and healthcare professionals" on the topic of child labor.
Contacts: Diana Stroud, UIUC, 217-333-2261, email@example.com; Darlene Adkins, Child Labor Coalition,
BEFORE all you do-gooders (?) jump into all this perhaps you should take the RESPONSIBILITY to look at more than just the leftwing fundamentalist version of the truth:
It's the same old pattern; the hype *understood* is the hype that keeps people fearful and divided EASILY. Any view daring to stand outside of the confines of the prevailing hype (in the mainstream, Left, or Right) gets categorically ignored (when it really counts) and ultimately silenced. So it was for the kids who dared to organize themselves in the 1970s calling themselves Ann Arbor Youth Liberation/CHIPS (Cooperative Highschool Independent Press Syndicate out of CHICAGO!). They put out 10 YEARS worth of their desires and articulated challenges to *adult chauvanism*, some of which are published here:
Or check out this quote from their magazine "FPS", Spring 1978, page 11, 12:
"...One hundred years ago a similar situation existed regarding child labor. In the late 1800s children were often forced to work up to sixteen hours, six days a week. To stop that, state legislatures and Congress ruled that people cannot work until they are fourteen or sixteen.
"Nobody considered the child's RIGHT to work. First young people were being forced, and now they're being denied. One way or another they aren't allowed to make choices for themselves...The basis of children's liberation is escape from control by exploitation OR by undue restriction."
Did their adults listen? Could they allow themselves to? NOT A CHANCE!
Today, we're having the same sort of thing happening in the Third World (where the hysteria is most loudly waged). It's kind of interesting if you allow yourself to take a step back and look at the phenomenon. Like, which groups are on the forefront, where they get their funding, and in whose actual interest they serve.
Interestingly, challengers to the dominating paradigm automatically will have legions of "do-gooder" zealots busily trying to find out about where such challenger ideas come from and who finances US, etc. While the really slick manipulators keeping offices and departments in big business, er, university spaces, or having the ability to fly to the Third World are "on the left's side".
Really, how far does the alleged anti-corporate "awareness" of unaccountable power go?? Not too far. It's amazine how stupid so many in the Left are!
We're BARELY hearing about one children's UNION, made up of 14,000 child members (source: Mother Jones Magazine, Dec, 2000) and led by child members (see photos at www.oneworld.org/ni/issue292/work.htm). No one is giving us a link to anything THEY are publishing on the Net. In fact, the manipulation games and lack of serious assistance reserved for these apparently independent challengers is quite typical for dominant paradigm challengers across the board. Yet they are attempting to speak about their experiences and desires. Can groan-ups remove their ideological blinders for once and listen????
Here are excerpts from the article (by Anthony Swift, who's authored a book out of the UK entitled "Children For Social Change" --ISBN 1-900219-09-3) which you can read in whole at the url below:
More conventional delegates who imagined the children might sing a few songs or do a theatrical turn were in for a rude awakening. Attended by government ministers, union and business bosses, representatives of voluntary organizations and international agencies from 30 countries, the Conference launched a formal international debate that will inform the drawing up by the International Labour Organization (ILO) of a new Convention on Hazardous Child Labour, due in three years' time.
The children's delegates listened for six hours to statements by Ministers and others before they got their first chance to speak. [...]
'Nearly all child labour is intolerable and nearly all is criminal,' contended Neil Kearney, General
Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation, reinforcing his
case with a sampling of dire examples of child exploitation. 'If the agenda of those pushing for action
on intolerable forms results in other child labour being ignored I think future generations of working
children will never forgive us.'
It was in this context that the children's delegates gave their countervailing message loud and clear,
urging not abolition but regulation. Action should be taken, they said, to eradicate the most pernicious forms of child labour. But, in the absence of a real assault on the root causes of poverty, children had to have the right to work. It was not work but exploitation in the workplace that had to be targeted, and not only that of children. Was it any better to be exploited after the age of 15?
'We say "yes" to work, "no" to exploitation; "yes" to work, "no" to ill-treatment; "yes" to work, "no" to
abuses; "yes" to work, "no" to social exclusion,' intoned Ana Maria Catin Torrentes (17), of the
Movement of Working Children and
Adolescents in Nicaragua.
For children well schooled in the duplicity of the adult world, promises by politicians of antipoverty
and rehabilitation measures are to be weighed not in words but actions.
Some of the young delegates were furious with reporters and other delegates who used their quotes
to portray work as purely dangerous and abusive. 'That is manipulation,' said Vidal, of the National
Movement of Organized Working Children, in Peru. 'I want to make it very clear that work is not all
bad. I didn't discover only exploitation in the mines. There were adults who really cared for us. We
also had moments of gaiety, making a sport of racing each other in carrying the ore. There was joy in work.'
'Through my work I felt I was part of society,' said Vidal. 'I felt responsible and proud that
I was contributing by paying for my education and that of my brothers and sisters.' Work
should not be the possession of any group, he argued, but a universal right, available to both
children and adults.
'Children raise questions which are very different from traditional trade-union concerns,'
says Nandana Reddy of the International Working Group on Child Labour, which staged
the First International Meeting of Child Workers in Karnataka last year. 'They go beyond
issues of wages and working conditions to community concerns and beyond their own
interests to those of all children.'
The children's delegates spoke in support of ten resolutions hammered out at preceding
local, regional and international meetings of working children (see 'We, the working children
of the world'). In addition to the right to dignified part-time work, allowing access to leisure and
appropriate education and
occupational training, they called for an end to consumer boycotts of the produce of child labour. But
they also wanted access
to proper healthcare and demanded that the root causes of their difficulties - primarily poverty - be
You might think that adults, seriously bent on ending the oppression of children, would take a close
interest in children present
who had so triumphed over their own oppression as to become articulate advocates for their own
You would be wrong. Surprisingly few delegates really sought them out. Notable among those who
did were Swedish Labour
Minister Margareta Winberg and Carol Bellamy, head of UNICEF, which has played a key role in
participation and organization. But the attitudes of some delegates raised fears that they might
pressure the Norwegian
Government not to invite their young counterparts to the next phase of the debate - a conference in
Oslo in November,
focusing on implementation. 'Perhaps some other children should take part?' suggested a union
delegate, possibly referring to
What the children's representatives had in common is that their movements are in the very vanguard
of promoting the
participation and organization of children of the underclass. The adult resource people who support
them - variously known as
volunteers, collaborators and street educators - start from where the children are, in the streets and
other workplaces and poor
communities. They offer them what the world as it is structured systematically denies them, as well
as their families and poor
communities - respect, companionship and solidarity. They encourage them to form groups to
discuss, analyze and find ways to
overcome their common problems and work to reinforce family and community solidarity.
Some working children's movements already play a vigorous part in local and even national
movement, Bhima Sangha, has gained representation on the taskforces of five village authorities,
producing some substantive
changes in children's lives. The National Movement of Street Boys and Girls is playing a major role
in negotiating the
implementation of children's legal rights throughout Brazil. Meanwhile the National Movement of
Organized Working Children
in Peru has developed a curriculum for working children, established it in a government school and is
now negotiating to have
other schools take it up.
Through such interventions, organized children are already helping to produce positive changes in
public attitudes and social
provision. Their deliberations are surprisingly mature and scrupulously democratic. The leadership
they value is the kind that
facilitates everyone's participation. Through their organizations children learn to conduct themselves
as citizens - and challenge
the adult world to do the same. It is this process that they trust to bring about real social change.
But what is citizenship? 'It is to be the subject of rights and know your responsibilities,' said Vidal. 'It
is to want to be treated
as a member of society, not as a victim of poverty. As citizens we should be respected - whether we
are very small kids,
working children, adults or old people. Citizenship is the exercise of mutual respect.'
That is the vision that will be shut out if the doors are closed to them in Oslo.
Anthony Swift is a regular contributor to the NI. His book Children for Social Change (ISBN
1-900219-09-3) is available from bookshops or
from Educational Heretics Press, Bramcote Hills, Nottingham NG9 3FQ, England.
'We the working children of the Third World propose...':
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