Child Labor

Monday, writing about Labor Day, reminded me of a morning in Cairo, years ago.  We stayed in a great hostel called Garden City House.  It was full of professors and archaeologists, students, and academic people who travel to wonderful places , but on a budget.  We heard about it in Rome at Albergo Sole from a professor.   Garden City is a lovely section where you can see the Nile as well as the bustling city from the balcony.                   garden-city-house-garden-city-house-cairo-egypt-hostel

That morning, we were surveying the wonders of Cairo from the balcony, when I looked to the left and saw a rather high building , unfinished with workers on the top level. Suddenly, I noticed a boy about 8 , I would guess, peering down over the side and waving at us!  Horrified that he was so near the edge, I said, “Oh I wish I could do something to get the child off the building!” But not wanting him to  be distracted and fall, I just waved back!”  We decided that the child had had to go to work that day with dad.  I don’t know which would have been safer running unsupervised in the crowded streets or peering down from a multistory building and waving at the Americans! AFP_Getty-156745772-760x506

It is hard to describe the feeling of seeing things people do making hard decisions just to survive in developing countries.




Now to India, where of course we spent a much longer time. We saw children begging, on work sites with moms and dads, children being walked to school by nannies or driven by family driver. Indian children working parents at a construction site near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi

These little guys , at least, have on pants. Lots of Indian children, especially the tiny one run around buck naked. I have no idea about diapers. . . .  .india_village001_16x9

At one stop on our travels , I saw a young woman picking up bricks and carrying her baby.  Next I noticed her squatting, in the Indian squat, to nurse the baby right in the center of the field.


This squatting position is taken by men and women alike. You see them  lined up like this along the road.  It is hard for Americans to  sit in this position unless you are a catcher in a baseball game or do yoga.  I think it is  learned because of the bathroom situation and/ or lack of chairs. Indians adapt.


Young families are  waiting along side a construction site to begin work.                         There are older children everywhere selling postcards or trinkets, especially at huge tourist sites like Amber Fort outside of the “pink city ” or  Jaipur  with its  elephant rides, charmed cobras,  and “The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel.” This is one of the sites tourists swoop in and out of  on their week visit to India.  David’s students were instructed to sketch wherever we visited . They would draw ( pun intended) large crowds of interested observers.  They would show the people  their work and often ask the Indian kids to sign their sketch books. On that day, the students were dumbfounded that there was a 12 year old Muslim boy who was not able to write his name! His life will be pestering tourists  to go  home with a few pennies…rupees each night, for the rest of his life.

I am always very protective of India and though it is easy to post shocking facts and pictures, I want to tell you that progress is being made. Since 2009, there is a law in India for  Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education. They join 134 countries in the world with that law.  A free hot lunch is provided for all children in the government schools. There was a terribly, tragic  story of children dying at a rural school after having lunch  laced with poison.  But there are many, many children receiving a free education and hot meal each day. I loved seeing the kids in their uniforms  ( a holdover from the British) off to school in the mornings. Though this is available for all Indian families, some are so poor that they choose to have their children selling to make some daily money.  The same is true in Egypt which has the largest free, at all levels,  education system in the Middle East.



The children in both countries know the word baksheesh or money!

Writing this, I wondered about literacy rates in both countries, so I went to Wikipedia.  Egypt has an over all literacy rate of 72%, men at 80% and women at 63% with 10 year olds and above able to read and write.  In India,the total literacy rate is 82%, men 82% and women 65% meaning 7 year olds and above there can read and write.  These statistics are encouraging for both countries.

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This pictures was the most touching to me. My hope is that this little girl will grow up to meaningful work at a fair wage, safety to walk the streets and ride the buses,  clean water and safe, clean facilities, safe, nutritious food,  be able to  dream dreams and have the skills  to attain them, and  after  a strong meaningful education take her rightful place to make a meaningful contribution to her family and  Indian society.

There are lots of people with this same vision for their   country …the work moves  slowly….there are so many souls in India and in Egypt!

Namaste. . . . .This is Egypt and India. . . .  .. .

About annetbell

I am a retired elementary teacher, well seasoned world traveler,new blogger, grandmother, and a new enthusiastic discoverer of the wonderfully complex country of India. Anne
This entry was posted in India, Travel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Child Labor

  1. Child labor indeed is a very burning topic to ponder upon and it touches me so deeply especially after having my own children. The natives think either beg or die hungry, or work and live. It is a sad situation and I don’t support child labor at all. Every child has a right to be a child with food, shelter and clothes and a right to education.


  2. willowmarie says:

    It’s easy to forget just how privileged we are- thank u for the reminder.


  3. tiramit says:

    As you say in your conclusion, it begins with a vision for the future, focus on the children of today – social change is generational. Maybe it has to evolve naturally, certainly it moves slowly. Somebody commented here that we all have to take personal responsibility… I feel that’s the direction we need to be going in. A bit like planting a seed and nurturing it with care. The tree grows and bears fruit long after those who planted the seed are dead and gone…


    • annetbell says:

      You stated this so beautifully! Thank you . As a teacher and mama. I definitely understand the seed planting metaphor and it is most appropriate. Hearts and minds need to change before the behavior follows. Namaste. . . . Visit and comment again soon!


  4. One more point is that the poor in America are only relatively poor. I have lived in Honduras and I think our poor usually have more stuff that the Honduran middle class.


    • annetbell says:

      Yes, I agree from my travel expereicnes. I have seen much worst poverty in places all over the world. I have visited Belize and Guatemala where it certainly is true. Namaste. . . . .


  5. OyiaBrown says:

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.


  6. Anne, it’s the babies, all those beautiful innocent little people in whose large clear eyes you see huge potential, those really tug at my heartstrings. Your pics, esp the last one, brought tears to my eyes and I found myself sending up a silent prayer for her…One thing I feel happy about is that almost everyone I know helps pay for the education of the children of their domestic help here in Bangalore. You may not have heard of this little novel written by a doctor from Bangalore (who has dedicated her life to working in underresourced villages); it’s set in a city where the people that live in a condo employ people from the adjoining slum, and their interactions, and the contrasts… I really liked the book, though it was saddening. The author’s name is Kavery Nambisan, you might like it…


    • annetbell says:

      I read about whole families being adopted by the wealthier Indians and taking them in , feeding and educating the children. A wonderful, generous practice. Sad story about the diplomat in Washington. There was a wealthy Indian couple near Albany, the state capital of New York, near where we live with a similar situation of a woman living and working with very low pay and never getting out. Somehow that woman escaped , there was a trial and the man and woman had to go to jail. The US has its history, too.


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