The Words That Haunt Me

I’m so happy to have Shelley Seale contributing here.

Her last post, “Children as Chattel: Child Labor & Trafficking in India“, is worth a serious read and reflection. I commented on it, stating that one of the paragraphs haunted me. It was this paragraph:

“Child laborers and prostitutes exist in such large numbers for a very simple, yet horrific, reason: they are cheap commodities. Children cost less than cattle; a cow or buffalo costs an average 20,000 rupees, but a child can be bought and traded like an animal for 500 to 2,000 rupees. They can be paid the least, exploited the most, and due to their largely invisible status have virtually no power against their oppressors.”

It is horrific at a level I’m unable to get me mind around. Since Shelley is there, seeing it, feeling it, I asked her, “How does the average American begin to help? How can they effectively create change?”

She responded in an email to me. With her permission, I would like to share it with you here.

From Shelley:

I understand your concern and the feeling of being overwhelmed by the horror of it. Honestly, I feel the same way. Yet, there are many things that the average American, halfway around the world, can do to help bring about change to this “industry.” The very first step is awareness, which people are actively taking when they choose to read articles like this and blogs like yours, instead of turning away. In the words of Albert Schweitzer: “Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”

For more proactive steps, there are simple things which can keep that conscious awareness at a level at which it can help these children:

1. Be aware of where the goods you buy are coming from. Is it really worth getting something a few dollars cheaper if it is made by slave labor or children? There is a resource called “The Better World Shopping Guide” which is an ethical consumer’s guide to avoiding buying products such as ones that are made in these types of factories and sweatshops that employ child labor. You can go on their site and see the BEST and WORST companies on the planet based on a comprehensive analysis of their overall records of social and environmental responsibility for the past 20 years.

2. You can take action by signing petitions and/or financially supporting organizations that are working worldwide to end child labor. Some of them are: | |

3. You can support individuals and NGOs such as CCD which I visited and profiled for this story. These are the real grassroots people who are working in the trenches every day to uphold the rights of children to that most simple of things: a childhood. Centre for Communication and Development

4. Write to your senators and representatives and urge them to support United Nations’ and global efforts at ended child labor, trafficking and slavery. For a website to look up your representative and contact them online, go to

Together, we CAN make this a world fit for children!

Shelley, thank you. I know everyone reading this will benefit from your insight.


  1. Reading your and Ms Seale’s article,
    it seems that Indians themselves are apathetic to the problem.

    No report on such issues are complete
    unless you also tell your readers what the people of
    the victim’s own country has and is doing to help them.

    Here are just a few links.

    There will be hundreds more that never gets on the net.
    And people who help children on individual basis, but never publicise themselves.

    I took up the responsibility of
    a child’s education (school and university) when she lost her father
    a non-relative, known by my mother through one of her’s childhood friends.
    There will be thousands like me doing a little bit here and everywhere.

    So please do not give the impression that India and Indians are not doing anything,
    the reality it is us the silent Indians that makes the real difference.

    Besides what price do you put on the children of Iraq
    that have suffered under the sanctions
    and are getting killed as we speak?

  2. Little Indian… you have no idea how happy I am to have your comment and to hear your perspective. It is certainly possible to get the impression that Indians are apathetic. It is NOT my goal and I am sure it is not Shelley’s goal either. The goal is to provide a forum for shedding light on the problems and for allow discussion, like this one. I want both sides heard.

    I will be checking out all of your links and your own blog.

    As for Iraq, it is a tragedy as is the child slavery tragedy. I grieve for those children as well, it is just not the focus of this blog.

    Again, thank you for stopping by and taking the time to bring your perspective. It is greatly appreciated!

  3. While I do appreciate your blog views and Shelley’s real-world efforts in this regard (I’ve blogrolled Shelley a long time back), I am not convinced that any real change can be brought about in India without the population being brought under control.

    And that’s a big challenge. This is not to diminish or downplay the role of agencies and individuals involved in caring for India’s children – it is simply too magnanimous a task. Without fixing the leak in the plumbing, any attempts to individually transplant the water bucket by bucket isn’t pragmatic.

  4. Mahendrap… I certainly can’t disagree with your logic. The massive and continued increases in population growth only compound the problem. If statistics can ever be a guide, educated populations have fewer children. I’m not sure how you get to population natural population control without social reforms that include better education at every economic level.

  5. To Little Indian: I ask if you read my article, Children As Chattel? I must take issue with your comment that I am representing an India in which Indians themselves are apathetic to the problem. Far from the case. If you read the article, you would see that the entire story is centered around Mr. Swapan Mukherjee and his organization CCD. Swapan and CCD are doing INCREDIBLE work in investigating child traffickers and bringing them to justice, as well as rescuing child laborers and upholding their rights to an education, a childhood, and a better life. Virtually all of my articles, and the majority of the book I am writing, profile dozens of Indians who are doing the work in the trenches on behalf of vulnerable children. I have spent months in the country, traveling all around India and visiting/interviewing many, many Indians who are running orphanages, AIDS clinics, and other NGOS working with such children.

    This post was simply in response to the question, How can AMERICANS halfway around the world help? It in no way suggested that Indians were apathetic or were not helping. Please read the article and other things I have written more fully before suggesting such a thing, for nothing could be further from my truth.

  6. p.s. regarding your question about the children of Iraq – that situation has me embarrassed to be an American. I do NOT support the war in Iraq or the U.S. position and involvement there, and have not since day one. I completely agree with you. As Jeff said, it is a tragedy for children just as child trafficking and labor in India is a tragedy for those children. As are the many tragedies that befall children in my own country, the U.S., which certainly also has its share of horrific problems.

  7. i discovered that there are more than 25 million child slaves in the world. That is just WRONG!!!!! How could a mother or a father just sell there son for a few dollars. You also told us that those little kids are as young as five and are cheaper then cattle. you did a good job on your blog and explained every thing clean and well. I also like how you made many hyper links so other readers and myself can click on them and learn more about this tragic problem

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