How Does Child Slavery Impact Families?
Over 152 million children are victims of child slavery worldwide.1 Every child laborer has their own story of how their work has specifically affected them and their families.
James Kofi Annan, for example, was born in Ghana as the youngest of 12 children.2 His family lived in poverty and looked for any opportunity to make money to help their family. When he was 6 years old, James started working in the local fishing industry. He regularly worked 15 hours a day mending nets, cleaning fish and helping the other fishermen. James was not allowed to sleep, and he did not receive medical care despite the illnesses he developed because of his work. Despite the long, grueling hours and the frequent sicknesses, James would only get one meal a day.
If James tried to escape or speak up, his supervisor would beat him. His work in the fishing community was dangerous and lonely. He only saw his family when his father would come to collect his meager wages that helped provide food for his parents and siblings. For James, slavery was excruciating and life-threatening. His labor kept him away from school and his family until he was 13 years old.
James spent seven years in slavery.
For many families, the financial strain to feed, educate and care for their children can be too much. Some desperate families sell their children into slavery. Other families have their children to work alongside them to supplement the family’s income. Regardless of how they came to work, these children often experience harsh treatment, hazardous working environments and long hours for minimal pay. They are more susceptible to situations that can cause illness, injury or even death.
Many child laborers do not attend school frequently, and others drop out. Through education, children learn valuable literacy, math and relational skills. These skills are vital to escaping poverty because they allow children to hope.
1 “Global Estimates of Child Labour.” International Labour Office. 2016. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf
2 “James Annan.” End Slavery Now. January 5, 2015. https://www.endslaverynow.org/blog/articles/james-annan.
* Cover Photo by Zoriah, Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)