|School is not free in India, not all can afford it|
In 2007 I spent six weeks in Mumbai, India for a school internship/humanitarian trip. I spent those six weeks serving in two slum communities in the city. Much of our time was spent in the organization’s school, but I also spent time in different homes, drinking tea and spending time with the amazing women in the community. One day, a young boy came to the door of one of the small huts. Our interpreter explained that he was 11 years old and worked at the factory down the street. He had come to the hut to collect some shoe straps the woman had woven for the factory. Our interpreter went on to explain that the boy had worked at the factory for several years and had recently been given the new task of collecting the shoe straps. There were dozens of children who worked in the factory.
The idea of child labor was appalling to me. I felt that the boy should have been in school. But I soon learned that for many children in India, school was not an option. They spent their days in factories, making pennies an hour. Some made no money at all, as they were trapped in debt bondage with no end. These children are robbed of their childhood, of the opportunity to go to school, to play, and to develop into adults naturally. And they are making our clothes, shoes, and accessories. They are picking our produce, harvesting our coffee and cocoa beans.
As a Christian, I believe that all people are created equal in the eyes of God. He loves each of us the same. So if personally would not want my own (future) children and the children in my life right now to work in factories, why should I stand back in silence while other children are forced to do so? It didn’t seem right to me, so I began to explore the concept of socially conscious goods after my time in India. And for several years, it was extremely difficult to live a lifestyle free of slave or child labor. It was discouraging to know that I could not guarantee that I wasn’t inadvertently contributing to slavery with the products I bought. I did what I could, but I felt that it was not enough.
|All children should be able to go to school|
But things are changing. Organizations are popping up that fight slavery and sweatshop labor. Companies are creating ethics departments to ensure they are keeping slave produced products off their shelves. There is more public outcry and media attention now. Fair trade products are easier to find and they cost less than they did when I first started purchasing them. People are paying attention, and more consumers want to live a socially conscious lifestyle.
I’m beginning to realize that a socially conscious lifestyle is more than what clothes I buy and what coffee I drink. I believe there are many creative ways we can contribute to our economy without contributing to slavery. So this summer, I’m going to explore what it means to live a socially conscious lifestyle. There will be guest bloggers, news stories, and companies featured. I hope to keep things as positive and uplifting as possible. Its easy to get bogged down by the bad news in our world. Slavery is bad news, but there are so many people and groups contributing to the solution to this problem. I want to feature them, and to feature practical ways we can all work together to use our money to end exploitation.
I’m excited about this feature. I’ve put a lot of time into the research and plan for this summer, I want it to be educational and fun. The first post should be coming in a couple weeks. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Constructive criticism, feedback of all types, and suggestions are welcome. I’m looking at this series from one frame of reference, but each of you bring a different frame to the table, and I want to see things from your eyes as well. I hope you enjoy it!