Soccer balls are often symbols of our children's youth. Yet in other countries, these soccer balls are made by children whose lives are taken away from them when they are put to work to make them. They work because they have no choice.
On October 13, 2008, Sheba posted a story in her blog about these children, who are used to make soccer balls that our children and grand-children play with. After reading it, I felt that this was a story that needed to be told.
BreakPoint.org is a worldview ministry whose goals are to enlighten and help people everywhere. A commentary by PFM President Mark Earley was given, detailing more about the practice of using children in the worse possible way.
The story of one child, Gurmeet Kumar, a 10-year old boy, was told not only in the commentary, but on HBO's Real Sports with Brayant Gumbel. The episode aired September 16, 2008.
Gurmeet lives in one of India's poorest areas. Because his baby brother became ill earlier this year, and needed medicine, Gurmeet's mother borrowed less than $100 to buy medicine for the baby. Gurmeet's freedom was used as collateral for the loan. For Gurmeet, and other children like him, they will never go to school, never be allowed to be a child.
Now, Gurmeet spends his days working 10 to 15 hours at a time, stitching together soccer balls. It is he who will try to work off the debt, which may never happen. The soccer ball makers charge “exorbitant” interest rates that double the size of the debt every few months. This debt may end up being passed on to Gurmeet's children and his grand-children.
Sadly, despite the medication purchased, Gurmeet's baby brother died.
The thing of importance here is that it doesn't matter whether this crime is called "debt bondage" or "slavery", but rather how many of the world's soccer balls are made using child labor. These Indian children are paid five cents an hour to sew the ball's panels together. Even the little panel that states that the ball is “child labor free.”
This isn't the first time that the issue has come under scrutiny. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, states that,
"The soccer ball industry of Pakistan, principally concentrated in the city of Sialkot, has been under scrutiny in recent years for employing child workers. Many reports describe children stitching soccer balls in small rural workshops or in homes."
Because of widespread reports of children making these soccer balls, in 1996 a campaign was launched called FoulBall. The goal was to stop using child labor to make these balls and that they were only to be made by adults.
When HBO's Bernard Goldberg was investigating this story, he was able to find many instances where child labor and 'debt bondage' was still being practiced. Yet, Industry representatives told Goldberg that they didn’t know what was happening in India.
The commentary finishes out with a quote taken by "Forbes" that states: “That garden stone, handmade carpet or embroidered T-shirt you just bought was probably made by child labor.”
I leave with you this parting thought: What are you, the mom, the dad, the grand-parent, the aunt, the uncle, going to do with this knowledge?
Can you ever look at a soccer ball again without wondering: How was this ball made?
For more links to other resources, visit BreakPoint's Stolen Childhood.