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Published in: The Indian Era (Bhubaneswar), 12-3-2002      

Entertainment should not be at the cost of children: SACCS


BHUBANESHWAR, Mar 11: With only 80 days left before World Cup 2002, the World Cup Campaign 2002 of South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude (SACCS) and Global March Against Child Labour is moving into high gear. 'A game that is supposed to inspire youth and entertain the world must not be played with footballs sewn with the sweat of children,' said Kailash Satyarthi, chairperson of SACCS and Global March.
     Addressing a press conference Satyarthi explained that India and Pakistan are the great football producers for the World Cup. According to a recent report by the India Committee of the Netherlands and the All-Pakistan Federation of Labour (APFL), thousands of children in Pakistan and India are involved in the production of footballs. Moreover, workers in both countries are earning wages much lower than legal minimum wages and many basic labour rights are routinely neglected. Their life of exploitation is shared by another 250 million working children en their families around the world, he said.
     'I have been stitching footballs for as long as I can remember,' confided Geeta, a young girl from Jalandhar who estimated her age to be between 10 and 12 years old.
     My hands are constantly in pain. It feels like they are burning. There is nothing I can do. I have to help my older sister to complete the orders, described Geeta.
     Most children are forced into labour to help their families to earn enough monet to survive. Hence, football becomes home-based family work where a middleman who acts on behalf of a sporting good manufacturer provides the football pieces for in-home production. A normal working day does not often provide the workers with even legal minimum wages. While helping their families, many of the children miss out on their education, creating a vicious circle of poverty and uneducated labour, said Satyarthi.
     The World Cup campaign aims to engage the public in its campaign against child labour. The campaign had its first nationally televised event during the 114th Durand Cup, which concluded on February 16 in New Delhi. The tournament hosted a series of events to present the cases of the football stitchers to young children, football fans, the organising committee, and star and veteran football players. The wide support enjoyed by the campaign was illustrated by the signing of the petition by young children, football fans, and Indian veteran football players, the organising committee and the champions of the tournament players of the Mahindra United.
     Despite India and Pakistan being the locus of football manufacture, the World Cup Campaign has mobilized partners all over the world. In the Netherlands, the Federation of Trade Unions, the India Committee of the Netherlands, and the Clean Clothes Campaign sent a letter to the government asking them to require all government sponsored sports clubs to purchase child labour free and fairly produced sporting goods. Young volunteers from 'ACE' and 'Free the Children Japan' are organising a campaign football match in March, as well as an exhibition on child labour in the heart of Yokohama, the host city of the final of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, in association with the ILO Tokyo office and the American Embassy. Alvaro Messen Murilio, star football player from Costa Rica, has also shown his support for the Campaign by signing the declaration against child labour and unfair labour conditions in the sporting goods industry.
     The Football World Cup in 2002 is the first jointly hosted one in the history of the event. It is, moreover, hosted by two countries that have a history of conflict. This showcases the ability of sports as a brigade to bring the world together. The World Cup Campaign 2002 aims to bring young and old from around the world on one ground to kick off the fight against child labour.
     'We don't allow sports, entertainment and advertising industries in the world to flourish at the cost of toiling children', said Satyarthi.
     Mahendra Parida, Convenor of FACE and regional co-ordinator of South Asian Coalition of Child Servitude announced an awareness campaign for schools and youth organisations asking them to ensure that they use only child labour free sporting goods.



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