Sunday, April 25, 2010

Child Slavery

"No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”-United Nations: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I came across two books that disturbed me deeply -- both deal with childhood slavery in South Asia, India and Pakistan. It's sad that in this day in age, such a things exists. There's a lot of work to be done...

The first, is BOYS WITHOUT NAMES, by Kashmira Seth. Set in contemporary Mumbai tells a harrowing story of child slavery. Indebted to ruthless moneylenders, 11-year-old Gopal’s family flees to Mumbai, where they hope to find work. On the way, Gopal’s father goes missing, and Gopal guides his mother and siblings to an uncle’s house, where they worry and wait for Baba to find them. Eager to help his family earn money, Gopal follows a local boy to what he thinks will be a day’s work at a factory. Instead, he is pulled into a sweatshop—a single room where five boys are held against their will and forced to produce decorative items with toxic materials. As Gopal dreams of escape, he builds tenuous friendships with his fellow workers. Those wary bonds form a dramatic counterpoint to the children’s daily misery, described in moving, palpable detail, and skillfully steer the story away from docu-novel territory to its hopeful conclusion.

The second book is Susan Kuklin's IQBAL MASIH AND THE CRUSADES AGAINST CHILD SLAVERY. She tells the story of Iqbal, Iqbal, a charismatic Pakistani boy sold into slavery at age four. He was freed six years later by a human rights group and became an activist speaker in Pakistan and Europe and came to the U.S. in 1994. On his return home, at age 12, he was murdered. Readers will relate to Kuklin's outrage about Iqbal and also about the suffering of bonded children everywhere and the global markets that benefit from family poverty and illiteracy. Dramatic black-and-white photos show the Iqbal speaking out in Pakistan and Boston; many pictures from several countries document small children doing forced labor, even chained to machines. A long final section describes what human rights groups and particular U.S. schools are doing to organize boycotts and protests.

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