Devoted to the welfare of children

To the editor,

Nov. 20 is Universal Children’s Day, a day devoted to the welfare of children. Unfortunately, in the U.S and elsewhere, children are still denied fundamental human rights. Children worldwide suffer from corporal punishment in homes and schools, are denied access to schooling, are forced to join violent militias and endure a host of other atrocities that clearly violate the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other international treaties. One issue that has received attention in the past few months is that of child labor. 

According to the International Labor Office, there are about 168 million child laborers globally, which accounts for approximately one in 10 of the world’s children. Albeit a one-third reduction since 2000, the problem remains acute. An estimated 13 million children work in India alone, despite laws prohibiting child labor. About 4 percent of child laborers are in forced or bonded labor, prostitution, or fighting in armed conflict. The remainder of child laborers work in family businesses or on family farms, where they often toil as much as 27 hours per week and are exposed to dangerous chemicals and pesticides. 

In a report from May 2014, Human Rights Watch found that child laborers in the U.S. were routinely exposed to nicotine, pesticides, extreme heat and other dangers. Interviews with these children found widespread reports of headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting while working, suggestive of acute nicotine poisoning. In the U.S., there is no minimum age for children to work on small farms, and children as young as 12 can work on tobacco farms with no regulations to protect them.

Thankfully, there seems to be some movement on these issues. Kailash Satyarthi, co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prizes (with Malala Yousefzi), founded the South Asian Coalition on Child Servitude, which has raided factories across India, freeing more than 40,000 bonded laborers. Many of the workers were children who lived under armed guard.

On Oct. 14, labor ministers and representatives of 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries launched an initiative to rid the region of child labor. And, while I have never been a smoker and am not a fan of the tobacco industry, I want to applaud Philip Morris for its initiative to reduce the harmful exploitation of child laborers in the U.S. On Nov. 5, Philip Morris announced it will begin buying U.S.-grown tobacco only through third-party leaf supply companies. Previously, the company bought tobacco directly from tobacco farmers. According to Human Rights Watch, of the world’s 10 largest tobacco companies, Philip Morris has the most rigorous anti-child labor standards. It prohibits children under 18 from many of the most hazardous tasks on tobacco farms. According to Human Rights Watch, thousands of tobacco farms will now have to meet much higher child labor standards.

Still more can be done. In the U.S., we should ratify the CRC. Only the U.S and Somalia have not done so. While ratification by no means ensures all human rights violations will cease, it is a powerful symbol that the rights of children are important and prompt us to address inadequate protections for children. 

Globally, one of the obvious reasons children work is because their families need the income. As Charles Kenny wrote recently in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, passing laws alone sometimes makes the situation worse. Economists Prashant Bharadwaj and Leah Lakdawala studied the impact of India’s 1986 child labor law and found that it drove wages for children down and the number of hours they worked up, with the biggest impact on poor families. Instead, we must support the education of children and help cover the costs of schooling. Some countries have begun paying families to keep their kids in school. Mexico’s Opportunidades program gives mothers two-thirds of what their daughters would earn in the labor force, which has reduced that country’s child labor rates by as much as a quarter. Other efforts include covering expenses associated with schooling in the developing world, like school meals and uniforms.

– Laura Finley, Barry University, Miami, writing for Peace Voice

Hively hits a home run

To the editor,

Just wanted to write and compliment Zach Hively on an excellent article in the Nov. 6 Telegraph called “Rounding Third.” Baseball is the only sport that my husband, Jeff Mannix, follows. It is mental strength combined with strategy and skill. We savored every game in the playoffs and the World Series. Zach’s story about game seven was clever and his writing was excellent. He took us back into the game, then gave us a lot more things to think about in life. Great story. Keep up the good work!

– Sincerely, Linda Mannix, Durango

A little fan mail goes a long way

To the editor,

To the Durango Post Office employee who slipped a nice note into my P.O. box, thank you! I am glad you enjoyed my most recent article in The Alpinist. I’ve always thought our local post office has the most friendly employees around, and this confirms that notion. Some kind printed words go a long way, especially in this modern, digital age. Thank you!

– Luke Mehall, Durango

Waiting in Wales

In the loose angles

of the bickering tolls

which hum, hurriedly

under sky shadow,

I wait for the blue tide

of the inevitable to cover

the mussel shell rumbling

of regrets,

of a mother’s barking annoyance.

They, the patient ones,

are silent yet whisper

in the wind stream of spring.

April, lost in its fumbling cold

tries to abort the bending blooms.

I am the thief over the hedge

of misgivings and mutterings.

I hunger for the summer girl


near the winded seas

of my youth

where the swells rage

to carry me out

never to return,

never to sing the songs

of what was once familiar.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio

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Paper chase

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High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows