Global March Against Child Labour: From Exploitation to Education
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Global March Against Child Labour - From Exploitation to Education

Offside: Child Labour in Football Stitching

Kailash Satyarthi with child football stitchers
releasing the report

A case Study in Meerut District
New Delhi, 6 October 2008 – Once again the global sports community stands shamed by the tainted stories of child labour in football stitching. In spite of famous FIFA agreement 1996, European Parliament resolution 2004, the incorporation of the clear codes of conducts and Indian Sporting Goods Industries Monitoring and government's tall claims against no child labour, thousands of children are still stitching footballs for the big brands.  

According to a study conducted by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) in association with International Labour Rights Forum at least 5000 children are stitching footballs and producing other sporting goods including baseball, cricket balls, basket balls, volleyballs, tennis balls, etc. and contributing to the Indian Sport Industry, which manufactures a total of 318 items. In the villages and urban slums of Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh and Jalandhar, Punjab many of these children and their families are forced to work under heavy debt from their contractors as bonded labourers. As a result their health and education is completely compromised. 

The study titled "Offside: Child Labour in Football Stitching- A case  Study in Meerut District" was released by Kailash Satyarthi, internationally acclaimed child rights activist, Chairperson, Global March Against Child Labour and Founder, BBA along with five child football stitchers from Solaklaa, Meerut. All the five children are now enrolled in schools under BBA activities, but still have to work (stitch footballs) to pay of the huge debts taken by their parents.

Heena, a 9-year-old shy girl with huge dreams said that her eyes, hands and back aches a lot because of the tiring work, but she is happy that now she is atleast able to go to schools. She wants to become a Police Officer to arrest all the criminals and to stop all kinds of violence. Nisha, 13-year-old girl still has bandages on her finger as a result of the needle pierce while stitching football. While explaining the procedure to stitch the leather pieced together said, "we have to be very careful with the needle work otherwise the contractor cut Rs.1-2 from out pay for every single flaw as a repairing charges." 

"If you roam around in the slums of Budh Vihar and Kamal Pur in the outskirts of Meerut or go to remote villages like Shiwal Khas you can come across hundreds of young children stitching artificial leather pieces stamped "child labour free". Not only this, many of these children dream of playing with a football. What else could be a bigger crime?", alleges Satyarthi. Noting the progress towards ending child labour, Satyarthi says, "There has been significant progress during last 12 years since BBA first exposed child labour in sporting goods industry in 1996. As a result of sustained international consumer pressure and intense activities like creation of Bal Mitra Gram in Meerut areas and school enrolment activity under BBA activity and the projects run by various NGOs in Jalandhar and Meerut, the number of child labourers in football stitching has come down to 20,000 to 5000. But, why should even one child miss her childhood for play of another?", asked Satyarthi.      

The study revealed that even after 12 -14 hours work a child can stitch maximum two footballs and earn at best Rs. 3-5 for each, which is 40 times less than the footballs retail price. If the whole family of 6-7 members work tirelessly for these long hours they can produce only 10 footballs earning Rs. 30-50 a day. If a stitch comes undone the contractors deduct the repair cost from the labourers' wages. The study highlights the major health hazards faced by the children. All the children interviewed complaint of fingur cuts and injuries whereas 35% still have the fresh cut on their fingers . Another 35% complain of pains in eyes , 50% was suffering from continuous back ache and 85% have regular pain in their hands and fingers. No safety measures or medical care given by contractors and the absence of public health system worsen the situation.  

 "The purpose of study is not to just expose problem or to sensitize the international consumers but to launch a campaign among the domestic consumers to demand for child labour free sports goods. Our country is big market for sporting goods," said Bhuwan Ribhu, National Secretary, BBA.  

"All the adult workers must be given minimum wages so that they can send their children to schools," demanded R. S Chaurasia, Chairperson BBA. "Lets stop this inhuman act of buying fun for our children and slavery for others."  

Gaurav, Gautam, Nisha, Vikas  and Heena all want to play, especially to kick the football high above in the sky. 
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