June 25, 2021

When a child’s smile goes out early…

Sensitive content warning: reference to child exploitation, child labor, violence

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989.* “Article 32.- States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development”

However, yesterday, at sunrise, 152 million children did not go to school ... but to work. Today once again ... 152 million children, maybe more, did not hear the school bell ring, did not meet with their friends to talk, play, laugh but with their "colleagues" to work. Maybe they share the same young age. Their daily life, endless hours of work in miserable conditions and in many cases in the form of slavery. Their playground, a field, a factory, or a mine. Their future is non-existent, threatening, and uncertain. But why are children driven to work at such a young age?

Isn’t it obvious? The global economic hardship, poverty and destitution affect millions of families worldwide. The price, the need for child labor in order to aid the family budget. One question that arises, however, is what kind of work children can offer, unskilled, uneducated and without being fully developed. The answer consists of the fact that it is not work but exploitation. Hundreds of thousands of young children end up being sexually exploited by affluent citizens of fast-growing countries as they are illegally transported for the sole purpose of becoming sex slaves. At the same time, it is not uncommon for children to be forced to take part in wars, which is particularly worrying given the dangers that lie ahead. Also, one of the areas of child exploitation that has caused particular concern in international public opinion is the exploitation of children in the mines. Their employers force them to perform dangerous occupations, often chained and with the threat of violence if they do not execute their wishes properly. This sad list is completed by children being transported in fast-growing countries either as guinea pigs or for organ trafficking. And this is just the beginning of an endless list of exploitation and bloodletting.

These numbers seem huge and shocking at first glance, however, we consider that it is not something that concerns our country but slowly developing countries, countries of Africa, Asia or Latin America. Nevertheless, child exploitation is not something unknown in our country. Inadequate and in many cases insufficient protection of both the child and motherhood leaves room for the exploitation and violation of children's rights. Particular increase in children’s exploitation is presented among the social groups of refugees which due to the sociopolitical developments have increased in Greece.

These are, therefore, children whose childhood was cut off early or it was never granted. Can you imagine yourself today without your childhood, without the carelessness of your student years and the endless and carefree games with your classmates? So what would your psychosynthesis be like today if you were forced from a tender age to join the hard world of work? Would you be able to dream about the future?

However, the latest results of a survey showing a declining rate of child exploitation show optimism and hope, but what changes will the global economic downturn caused by the well-known COVID - 19 bring? The question that remains is what can you do to eliminate child exploitation? Get informed and report any form of human trafficking. Stop buying products from companies that have based their success on child exploitation. Push for the establishment of stricter legislation around products and services that are based on child labour. You may feel weak and consider any effort ineffective, but "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has, Margaret Mead.

As Paulo Coelho points out: a child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no particular reason, to always be busy with something and to know how to demand with all his might what he wants. The protection, therefore, of the youngest members of our society is imperative, as they are the most sensitive but also promising part for its development and evolution. It’s never too late to give children a happy childhood.

Translated by Athina Perdikari Reviewed by Maro Karipsiadi

Photography by Polina Vasilikou & Evelina Papadopoulou

Christos Karatzias

Student in the department of Engineering. Multifaceted and troubled figure. He calls himself a daydreamer and a lover of philosophical conversations. Enthusiastic, idealistic, and curious, with a heightened sense of justice. He’s often lost in his thoughts, looking for a deeper meaning in everything. He wishes to travel all over the world along his favourite people. In order to approach him, you should just be yourself.

Athina Perdikari (she/her)

Passionate about life and in love with food, sensitive at heart but will only show it to her people. Music, nature and reading give her courage. She wants to travel the world and meet new people but will always come back to her first love, Thessaloniki. A perfectionist, an observant and a sceptic, found her enthusiasm in translation.

Maro Karipsiadi (she/her).

Law student at AUTH but will definitely break Monopoly rules. Her favourite form of expression is music and she believes that anything is possible if you work hard for it, unless you want a bite of her burger.

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