IKEA Foundation Tackles Child Labor in India’s Cotton Communities; Long-Term Holistic Approach Addresses Social, Cultural and Economic Influences
Ten-year-old Tejas was forced to leave school and work in the cotton fields in India alongside his parents to supplement the family’s US $1.67 a day earnings. “It’s very difficult to work in cotton fields,” says Tejas. “My back ached every day. I feared that snakes or spiders would bite me. I wished I could study. My friends used to ask me to go to school with them. I had to work.”
Tejas is not alone. India is home to the largest number of child laborers in the world, with nearly 13 million boys and girls, aged 5–14, relegated to kitchens, factories and fields. Glaring gaps in current laws do not protect children between the ages of 15 and 18 at all. Additionally, laws allow for children of all ages to work in seemingly non-hazardous occupations, such as agriculture and domestic work. So it is no surprise that six in 10 of India’s child laborers are engaged in agricultural activities.
According to Jonathan Spampinato, Head of Strategic Planning and Communications for the IKEA Foundation, “We recognize that child labor is a highly complex issue that crosses social, cultural and economic boundaries. We must address attitudes and beliefs that perpetuate child labor practices and help build quality education and economic empowerment programs as sustainable alternatives to child labor.”