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  • Pieces of a childhood

    by Sid (Faisal)
    22nd December, 2007 at 3:31 pm    

    Here are the first and second prizewinners of the UNICEF Photo of the Year award for 2007.

    First Prize: Child Brides [photo: Stephanie Sinclair]

    Meet the Afghani newlyweds. He, Faiz, is forty and she, Ghulam, is eleven. “We needed the money”, Ghulam’s parents said. Faiz claims he is going to send her to school. But the women of Damarda village in Afghanistan’s Ghor province know better: “Our men don’t want educated women.” They predict that Ghulam will be married within a few weeks after her engagement in 2006, so as to bear children for Faiz.

    Early marriages are not only a problem in Afghanistan: worldwide there are about 51 million girls aged between 15 and 19 years who are forced into marriage. The youngest brides live in the Indian state of Rajasthan, where 15% of all wives are not even 10 years old when they are married. Child marriages are a reaction to extreme poverty and mainly take place in Asian and African regions where poor families see their daughters as a burden and as second-class citizens. Already in their younger years, girls are given into the “care” of a husband, a tradition that often leads to exploitation. Many girls become victims of domestic violence. In an Egyptian survey, about one-third of the interviewed child brides stated that they were beaten by their husbands. The young brides are under pressure to prove their fertility as soon as possible. But the risk for girls between the ages of 10 and 14 not to survive pregnancy is five times higher than for adult women. Every year, about 150,000 pregnant teenagers die due to complications – in particular due to a lack of medical care, let alone sex education.

    Second Prize: Child Labourer [photo: G.M.B. Akash]

    Child Labour is pervasive in Bangladesh and it is not uncommon to see children working in all kinds of labour from domestic servants to factory labourers.

    According to UNICEF estimates, about 3.3 million children in Bangladesh are involved in child labor – almost 20% of the working population, despite efforts during the 1990s to ban child labor in the textile industry. Many children are forced to carry out hazardous work with dangerous chemicals in paint shops, workshops and tanneries. A child worker receives 60 Taka per day (less than 1 Dollar), about one-third of the regular wage for adults. Factory owners prefer to employ children, thereby keeping trade unions out of their factories. By entering the labor market at such an early age, children have no chance of getting an education and consequently no chance of getting better-paid jobs.

    Eid Mubarak and a Happy Christmas to the children who are not going to be sharing in the joy of the festivities, who’s lives have been blighted by forced marriage, child labour and abuse.

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    1. Imo Mio

      RT @sunny_hundal: Pieces of a childhood

    1. Desi Italiana — on 22nd December, 2007 at 9:13 pm  

      I remember that first pic and coming across that story long agon.

      If I’m not mistaken, she was married off because of a heavy debt burden. Many child marriages take place to recompense heavy debts. I didn’t know that the youngest brides are in Rajasthan, though.

      Regarding the second story, I’ve been following child labor in Bangladesh and not to sound like a whimpering bleeding heart, but it really does break my heart when I see children this young doing any kind of labor. The exploitation of children in every aspect- child/sex trafficking, child labor, and so no- in South Asia is a HUGE problem, and to rectify that, it’s going to take massive structural changes (political economy, oversight, regulation, other incentives, breaking up trafficking cartels, application of human rights and labor laws) as well as societal changes. Though the latter, I think, can be somewhat easily fixed if there are other options.

    2. douglas clark — on 22nd December, 2007 at 10:38 pm  


      Yeah, I too came across that ‘wedding photo’. I’ve rarely seen a sadder picture. Otherwise, what Desi Italiana says, goes for me too.

    3. kELvi — on 22nd December, 2007 at 10:41 pm  

      No punishment is too harsh for a person who lays waste to the life of children.

    4. Vasey — on 22nd December, 2007 at 11:04 pm  

      I really did think that was a picture of a couple of kids playing dress-up (fake beard, obviously) till I looked closer. This is one of the more fantastically wrong things I’ve seen the last few weeks.

    5. Tim Worstall — on 23rd December, 2007 at 12:03 pm  

      Re the child labour, there are those who insist that the dangerous work is as a result of the ban on the use of child labour in the textiles industry. Paul Krugman (no right winger, for sure) for example:

      “When the movement gets what it wants, the effects are often startlingly malign. For example, could anything be worse than having children work in sweatshops? Alas, yes. In 1993, child workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart, and Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets — and that a significant number were forced into prostitution.

      The point is that third-world countries aren’t poor because their export workers earn low wages; it’s the other way around. Because the countries are poor, even what look to us like bad jobs at bad wages are almost always much better than the alternatives.”

      Be careful what you wish for: you might not like the effects of your getting it.

    6. MixTogether — on 23rd December, 2007 at 1:18 pm  

      Pickled people can you help?

      Why have none of the British media made any mention of the ‘honour’ killing of Aqsa Parvez in Canada?

      The story has been huge in Canada…

    7. Rumbold — on 23rd December, 2007 at 2:05 pm  


      It was covered in our most recent piece about ‘honour’ killings:

      (Last two sentences of the piece). Being a UK blog, we tend to give more prominence to UK ‘honour’ killings, though obviously they are all utterly horrific.

    8. douglas clark — on 24th December, 2007 at 4:59 pm  

      Sids’ first posted photo ought to be horrific in it’s own right. Did you look at the girls’ eyes?

      That says a lot to me.

      I hate photographs as narrative, but sometimes they come up with the goods. That is the thick end of a wedge that leads to so-called ‘honour killings’.

      Maybe, they lived happily ever after?

      This is a nonsense. A debt paid off with a child?

      That is, frankly, what Amnesty International, etc are all about. This is folk lying to themselves, and treating it as culutural.

      It is shit, we all know it is shit, we should all stand up against it. What intensely annoys me is that that needs to be said.

      The attitude, that women are property, is perhaps the unresolved leftover from the 20th century.

    9. douglas clark — on 24th December, 2007 at 5:05 pm  

      Or cultural, perhaps.

      Or, perhaps, “kultural” might get the message over.

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