Bread & Lipstick

The precipice of development and culture

Category: Empowerment

The hands that toil

Source: At work Photo by Trevor Cole — National Geographic Your Shot

For small hands toiling away on tobacco farms, in artisanal mining, or textiles, searching for a job is a rudimentary pursuit to secure the next meal, or the response to a call to support family. Often times, a child’s safety hangs by a thread. Each increase in the demand for child labor triggers precarious work conditions and health risks, while baring the forgone opportunities of school-age children to an education. 168 million children are subjected to varying forms of child labor across the supply chain, from service work to manufacturing. Manual labor and indentured servitude are common; a modern day slavery of sorts that hovers under the radar. After all, even in quantum theory, reality does not exist until you observe it and measure it- a glaring fact for millions of voiceless children and youth.

A majority of these jobs occur in the informal sector, practices go unregulated and children find themselves confined to long working hours without decent wages. So why are the most vulnerable of us exploited? Well, labor is cheap and children are easily managed.

Since local jobs feed into global supply chains, corporations at all levels have the social responsibility to monitor labor standards and ensure transparency. At a minimum, consumers have a common duty to verify that the products they procure are ethical. This year’s World Day Against Child Labor is on the theme ‘child labor and supply chains’. It might start with small hands but ultimately the responsibility of child protection lies in ours.

What’s in a smile?

Source: Hiding the Smile Photo by Aidan Ware — National Geographic Your Shot

Ethiopia boasts myriad traditions- a rich cultural tapestry that cuts across customs, languages and religions. Administratively, it is demarcated by 9 regional states and 800 districts. It has a population of over 97 million inhabitants, 88 living languages and is reputedly known for maintaining its independence with the exception of the Italian occupation (1935-1936). Culturally, there are many behavioral traits that are unique to Ethiopia compared to its neighboring states. Among them, is an implicit partiality towards modesty and prudishness. This photo by Adrian Wade captures a gleeful girl trying to suppress her excitement. A mannerism most are acquainted with. Such shyness is common among children and youth, especially girls in the rural expanses of Ethiopia. Girls are socialized at a young age to be bashful; humility is revered and too much confidence is frowned upon. Reidulf Knut Molvaer in his book ‘Socialization and Social Control in Ethiopia’ states: “a certain kind of ‘shyness’ is culturally favored and encouraged, leading to pretense… this is called meshkormem, a ‘virtue’ in girls that may be called ‘bashfulness, shyness, decency’.” I hold the belief that shyness is natural to some, what I take issue with is that such patriarchal norms, which inhibit self-expression in females are encouraged well into adulthood. For my part, I believe in the power of conviction; that too is decent.

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