In the South Pacific nation of Fiji, free and compulsory education, introduced three years ago, in association with better awareness and child protection measures, is helping to reduce children’s vulnerability to harmful and hazardous forms of work.
Sunita Pal, a frail 17-year-old, lies in a tiny bed in the women’s ward of New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Her face and head swathed in bandages, with only a bruised eye and swollen lips visible, the girl recounts her ordeal to a TV channel propped up by a pillow. She talks of her employers beating her with a stick every day, depriving her of food and threatening to kill her if she dared report her misery to anybody.
At 11 years of age, Banawat Gangotri already has four years of work experience as a farm labourer. The child, a member of the nomadic Lambada community from the village of Bugga Thanda in India’s southern Telangana state, plucked cotton and chillies from nine a.m. until 5 p.m. for about a dollar daily.
Karina Núñez Rodríguez was only 12 when she was forced into prostitution. Now age 50 and a mother of six, she is an outspoken fighter against sexual exploitation of children and teenagers in Uruguay, a country reluctant to recognise this growing scourge.
In a country where well over half the population lives on less than two dollars a day, it takes a lot to shock people. The sight of desperate families traveling in search of money and food, whole communities defecating in the open, old women performing back-breaking labour, all this is simply part of life in India, home to 1.2 billion people.
On a street corner in downtown Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city, 12-year-old Kaita sits with a friend on a peeling steel railing watching the headlights of motorbikes cruising through the otherwise silent streets. It is after midnight, and motionless human forms lie curled up in doorways or stretched out on pavements nearby. For Kaita, these streets are home, and have been for almost six years.
Twenty-two-year-old Dario (not his real name) came to Belgium from Brazil in 2005. Just a teenager at the time, he told IPS he “came to escape the economic, social and political conditions in Brazil and to learn another language”.
Patrick Martin, 14, and his brother Mayeso, 15, are safely home for the moment with their mother and other siblings in Kasonya village, Phalombe District in southern Malawi, after they and 12 other children were rescued from being trafficked to neighbouring Mozambique last month by their father.