The Evils of Child Exploitation in Our Economies

Every industry needs workers in various positions to turn the economic wheel of supply and demand. There is the collection of raw material, the refinement of the goods and the transportation of the product to market. It takes many hands to bring an item from the initial stages to a ready piece of merchandise for the consumer to buy and for the company to make a profit from. But what if this economic wheel is made up of millions of tiny hands that should be holding a pencil in a schoolroom instead of a shovel in a mine? This is child exploitation at its essence, and it is insidiously interwoven into our economies.

Legaldictionary.net helps us to fully see what is child exploitation, they define it as: “the act of using a minor child for profit, power, status, sexual gratification, or some other personal or financial advantage.”1 It goes beyond child labor exploitation to include any act that treats a child as a commodity to be used or sold. The industries that have the most child labor include those producing agricultural products like cocoa and cotton, the garment industry and child pornography.

According to the International Labor Organization, there are 218 million children in child labor worldwide.2 Assessing how many children are trapped in sex trafficking or child sexual exploitation is extremely difficult because these crimes will be well-hidden. The organization A21 estimates that there are 40.3 million people in human trafficking, and 25% of those are estimated to be children.3

A21 reports,

“Human trafficking is hidden, fast-growing, and complex—generating billions each year through the exploitation of millions of people.”

This alone generates $150 billion of income for those who perpetrate these crimes.4 Most likely, child exploitation in all its forms is underestimated and underreported everywhere.

The most vulnerable children are those belonging to families of poverty who have to make drastic decisions about their children’s futures for the sake of today’s survival. To ensure food enough to live, parents often have to send their children to work. Unknowing consumers purchase goods every day that were first touched by the small hands of children. Our economies are infused with these products, even if we have nothing to do with sex trafficking or child pornography.

Fortune Magazine reported in 2020,

“About 1.56 million children—many as young as five—are engaged in the back-breaking work of harvesting cocoa for that chocolate in Ivory Coast and Ghana. Those two West African countries together supply about 70% of the world’s cocoa beans, the raw ingredient for the bars and treats made by the likes of Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé.”5

And this is just one worldwide commodity in the production of which children are exploited. There are many ways for vulnerable children to become slaves to industries that have become adept at hiding their crimes.

Ridhushni was one girl who very easily could have been trafficked or doomed to a life of physical labor.6


Her father’s job could barely keep them going, and when he contracted tuberculosis, he could not work at all. Though her mother wanted her and her brother to go to school, there was simply no money for the expenses. Ridhushni and her brother roamed the streets instead.

This is exactly the situation that can lead to the devastation of child exploitation. Ridhushni and her brother were spared from this fate when GFA workers learned of her family’s situation. They came to her mother to explain how they could help through GFA’s child sponsorship program. Through the program, the children would receive nutritious food, medical care and education support. Each of these gifts would help this little girl and her brother to have the hope of a brighter future.

It took some time for Ridhushni to become engaged in her studies and enjoy learning. All she had ever known was playing in the streets with friends. With the loving, consistent care of GFA workers, however, she came to enjoy learning and even excelled in school. Ridhushni hopes to become a teacher someday.

GFA child sponsorship can help change the course of a child’s future for just $35 a month. Children left to fend for themselves are open to many forms of exploitation, and a monthly gift can help provide key assistance that keeps children from the clutches of people who would use them for their own personal gain or pleasure. GFA knows that providing basic supports that facilitate education is key to protecting children from these evils.

Your monthly gift for child sponsorship can help give incredible peace of mind to parents like Ridhushni’s mother. She didn’t want to leave her children alone during the day with no care or schooling. She understood that an education was vital to her children’s future. She simply had no choice. You can give a family the choice today when you give to GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program.

Learn more about child labor in the fashion industry

1 “Child Exploitation.” Legaldictionary.net. June 23, 2015, https://legaldictionary.net/child-exploitation/.
2 “International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor: Countries and Regions.” International Labour Organization. Accessed March 3, 2022, Child labour statistics (IPEC) (ilo.org).
3 “Human Trafficking.” A21. Accessed March 3, 2022. https://www.a21.org/content/human-trafficking/gqe0rc.
4 “Human Trafficking.” A21. Accessed March 3, 2022. https://www.a21.org/content/human-trafficking/gqe0rc.
5 Vivienne Walt. “Big Chocolate’s child-labor problem is still far from fixed.” October 19, 2020. https://fortune.com/2020/10/19/chocolate-child-labor-west-africa-cocoa-farms/.
6 “What She May Never Have Had.” GFA World. March 2020. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/what-she-may-never-have-had/.
* ILO Asia-Pacific. Flickr. https://flickr.com/photos/iloasiapacific/8762269701/.