Child slavery today is the worst form of child labor. Child labor does not include household chores or tasks to help the child’s family; it is work that interferes with their school attendance and performance and their physical and emotional development.
The enslavement of children goes beyond forced child labor; it includes the exploitation and even imprisonment of children for profit.
Children are often forcibly employed in agriculture, mining, factories and more. Children can work on tobacco farms, cobalt mines, clothing factories or other workplaces. In such situations, children work long, labor-intensive hours, with no breaks, for minimal pay. Some employers do not pay children at all. These jobs may expose children to hazardous chemicals and materials, crowded workspaces and verbal and physical abuse. In some workplaces, employers regularly beat children workers, and they may also deprive children of food, sleep and even medical care to motivate them to work.
Slavery exposes children to disease, injury and abuse and can prohibit them from attending school. When children are in bondage, they do not have opportunities to learn, grow and play as they should during childhood. These aspects of childhood are vital to children’s development of social and emotional skills, physical growth and understanding of the world.
How do children end up in slavery?
Due to extreme poverty and often with the promise of better provision for their children, some desperate families sell their children to farm owners or traffickers. Child traffickers convince these parents that their jobs pay well and can help alleviate the family’s financial crisis. Other traffickers kidnap children from small villages to sell into slavery or use for their businesses.
The International Labour Office estimates that there are 152 million child laborers worldwide.1 These are staggering child slavery facts. Children as young as 5 years old work long days of hard labor. These young children often work the most dangerous jobs because they are small, nimble and easy to coerce. Child workers are a significant portion of the global workforce, but they should not be forced to work.
Any exploitation of children is wrong and detrimental to the child.
Anti-Slavery.com explores the definition of child slavery further, stating that it is “the enforced exploitation of a child for someone else’s gain, meaning the child will have no way to leave the situation or person exploiting them.”2
According to the International Labour Organization, this includes trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labor, forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, and illicit activities.3 Slavery exposes children to dangerous people and situations, and coerced labor forces children to grow up too quickly.
What is an example of children in slavery?
Like many children worldwide, young Hamisi experienced hopelessness and difficult working conditions working in Mererani mines in Tanzania.4
Hamisi’s parents own a coffee bean farm, but their income dropped steeply when the market price for coffee plummeted. Hamisi’s father could not afford to buy Hamisi’s school uniform or supplies, so Hamisi left during his third year of school to start working. While many children must work to help provide food for their families when they experience dire poverty, for Hamisi, the promise of discovering valuable gems also drew him to the Mererani mines.
Leaving his hometown, Hamisi found work at a mining site more than 40 miles away. Children like Hamisi working in the mines are called “nyokas,” or “snake boys.” Their job is to crawl through small underground tunnels to different mining pits and back to the surface to make deliveries. These tunnels are cramped, dark and hot, and they expose small children like Hamisi to extreme temperatures, harmful dust and hazardous tunnels.
Hamisi worked up to 18 hours daily for one meal and minimal pay. Many more children like Hamisi live and work in unthinkable conditions.
What can you do to help children in slavery?
Child labor and slavery are issues worldwide. Since child labor and poverty are inextricably linked, some solutions to child slavery might include education for children and vocational skills and job development for adults. These solutions can help break the cycle of poverty. Families need to be able to earn sufficient income without sending their children to work. Small animals or other income-generating items can also offer impoverished families opportunities to earn a sustainable income.
Since 1979, GFA World has ministered to families and children experiencing poverty and hopelessness in places such as Asia and Africa.
Consider supporting GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program, through which you can help protect children like Hamisi from enslavement. For $35 a month, you can help children, their families and their communities break the cycle of poverty through community-wide solutions, which may include opportunities for education, medical care, protection against malnutrition, access to clean water and more. Through sponsorship, children feel loved, wanted and hopeful. Even more importantly, children can experience God’s love firsthand!
Please consider sponsoring a child today!Learn more about child marriage
1 “Global Estimates of Child Labour.” International Labour Office. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575499.pdf. 2017.
2 “Child Slavery Today.” Anti-Slavery.org.. https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/child-slavery/. Accessed January 2022.
3 “What is child labour.” International Labour Organization. https://www.ilo.org/ipec/facts/lang–en/index.htm. Accessed January 2022.
4 “Child Labour Stories.” International Labour Office. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_decl_fs_44_en.pdf. Accessed January 2022.