Child labour


In a way child labour is what gave me the chance to edit the NI. Sixteen years ago I visited India on my first trip to the Third World and found it unbearably difficult to be confronted so nakedly with poverty - and with my own relative wealth. My painful confusion came to a head when I met Rajesh, a small boy who served food in a restaurant in Pushkar, Rajasthan. He was a bonded labourer - tied to his employer and required to work all day for only his keep, probably in payment of a debt his parents had incurred. I agonized about whether I should attempt to 'rescue' him, giving him the money I'd brought with me instead of proceeding with my travels. But I didn't. Later I wrote a short story about the incident which caught the notice of the New Internationalist's editors sufficiently for them to interview [image, unknown] me. So I ended up with a fulfilling job while Rajesh in all probability continued to languish in effective slavery, a condition in which his own children may well now have joined him.

Somehow this anecdote seems the more relevant in a week in which I have been reading vast piles of applications from people as keen as I was to join the NI editorial team - we are in the throes of recruiting our first Australasian co-editor for many years. Both NI Australia and NI Aotearoa/New Zealand are technically independent of the international NI (dually based in Oxford and Toronto). But in reality they are very much part of this co-operative international family and we hope that the new co-editor will help bring all the constituent parts of the New Internationalist even more closely together - as well as actively representing the ideas and perspectives of the Asia-Pacific region.

Child labour is more identified with that region than with any other, though this issue tries to take a few steps beyond the 'shock horror' coverage of the mainstream media. I had an unusual head start on the research for this magazine given that I spent part of last year on contract to UNICEF doing editing work on their own State of the World's Children report on child labour. That gave me a good knowledge of the thinking and campaigning on the topic but it also left me wanting to hear more of what child workers themselves say about their life and work - which is why you'll meet a fair few in the pages that follow.

Chris Brazier
for the New Internationalist Co-operative

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New Internationalist issue 292 magazine cover This article is from the July 1997 issue of New Internationalist.
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