Thursday, September 17, 2009

Child Labor GM

The following is a Global Module constructed by Cyndi Brandenburg from Champlain and Nandita Abraham and Rekha Dar from Pearl Academy in India. It deals with the issue of child labor and fits in very nicely with Champlain's new third year human rights course.

Child Labor Issues

Week 1

Let’s take the opportunity to get to know each other. You’ll find three folders in the Week 1 area, one called Introductions, one called Perceptions, and one called Questions.

During a normal week, unless otherwise directed, always remember to post at least two times.

We’ll begin our reading and discussing next week. With this in mind, we want you to do a few things this first week.

1. Post an introduction in the Introduction folder. What are your interests? Do you have experience travelling overseas? What do you hope to learn in the Global Module? Also, take the opportunity to greet your fellow students and find out more about them. Be sure to include contact information such as your email address or IM.
2. What are your perceptions of your partners in the Global Module? For the _____ students, what do you think of the US? For the American students, what do you think of when you think of _____? Post your initial views in the Perceptions folder.
3. Post any questions that you might have in the Questions folder. Some of you are probably quite experienced in working online, and might have even participated in Global Modules before, and could help out your classmates if they have any concerns.

Keep in mind that you should always feel free to contribute to the Casual Conversations folders found elsewhere on the site. Feel free to introduce a topic or post questions. The password for the Casual Conversations folder is: beaver.

Thanks, and we’re really looking forward to getting started.

Week 2

This week we begin our discussion of child labor issues. We will be using a selection of short texts, photographs, and view a short film. The first is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially articles 31 and 32 (; the second is an article entitled “World Day Against Child Labor Marks the Need to Tackle the Worst Forms of Exploitation (; the third is the United Nations Global Compact Brochure ( , the fourth is a series of photos with original captions taken by Lewis Hines in the United States in the early 1900s, and a short film ( Finally, you will find a few short case studies below.

Lakshmi’s Story –

“I am nine years old and I work as a beedi. (This means I roll cigarettes). I live in Tamil Nadu. Can you find it on a map? I have a sister. My sister is ten years old. Every morning at seven o’clock she goes to the bonded labour man and she does not come home until nine o’clock at night. He treats her badly. He hits her if he thinks she is working too slowly or if she is talking to any of the other children; he yells at her if she is sick and cannot go to work. I don’t care about school or playing or that I have to work. All I want is to bring my sister home from this man. I could do that for 600 rupees but I not have 600 rupees and I never will. (600 rupees is about £10).”

Yeramma’s Story (aged 11)

“I used to go to a government school but I had to leave because my sister got ill. We took her to hospital but the doctor said we had to pay more money so my parents bonded me for 1700 rupees (about £30). I was about seven then. I worked unwinding the silk cocoons. I didn’t like it but my parents made me go. They said I couldn’t go to school; I had to work. At work I had to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning. I only was allowed home once a week. The rest of the time I lived at the factory. I slept with two or three other children in the factory between the machines. The owner provided rice for our food but he took it out of our wages. We had to cook the rice ourselves. We worked twelve hours a day with one hour’s rest. If I made a mistake, I would be beaten. Children do not only work in factories. Girls also have to undertake domestic work.”

Jasmina’s Story

“Seven days a week, 8 year old Jasmina has to get up before dawn to fetch water for the household where she has been working as a maid for over a year now. That is the start of her working day. She will work, washing, sweeping and anything else required until about 11 o’clock at night when she lies down on the hard bathroom floor and sleeps. She is tired much of the time but her employers hit her if she is not working hard enough or if she makes a mistake. ‘They want their shoes polished. If I don’t do it fast enough, they hit me with a cooking spoon.’ After her father died, her mother sent her and her sister from their home in West Bengal to work as maids. She is paid 100 rupees (a little over £1) a month.”

Please read the case studies and follow these links and read the three selections.

These two declarations represent two different approaches to the issue of human rights. One is from a universalist perspective, while the other focuses on a particular cultural and social context for human rights. By reading and discussing both of them we can gain a better understanding of how different societies interpret the concept of human rights.

Once you have read the texts you will answer a series of questions. You will be required to post answers at least twice, although you can contribute more often if you wish. You can either post an original answer to a question or comment on the posting of another student. However, at least one of your posts has to be a response to another student’s posting. Either way, your postings should be detailed and analytical. If you are late posting for the week do not simply answer a question that has already been answered by another student – contribute in a new way. Build upon your fellow students’ answers. Think of it as the class as a whole answering the question.

1. What factors today contribute to the global problem of child labor?
2. Consider article 32 of the United Nations Convention. How would you define “economic exploitation”? Is it possible to come to a consensus regarding minimum age and minimum wages for children? Why or why not?
3. Under what circumstances is it okay, or even beneficial, for a child to work?
4. Reflect on your own experiences as a child. Did you have to work, in or out of your home? What kind of jobs did you do? How old were you when you started? Were you paid? If so, how much?
5. How have notions of child labor in the US changed over the last 100 years? How do these ideas compare to notions of child labor in India?
6. As global citizens, what is our responsibility in terms of our business practices or personal purchases as they relate to this issue?

Week 3

Let’s continue our discussion this week, focusing on specific examples from our two countries. To facilitate this discussion you’ll be reading the Gap’s Goals and Progress on addressing Child Labor ( exploring the Gap’s social responsibility website ( as well as watching a short film

Work on the following questions. Be sure to post at least twice this week, with at least one of the posts being a response to another student’s posting.

1. What factors do you think likely contributed to the child labor issues that surfaced in this factory in India?
2. Analyze the Gap’s response to the child labor scandal – was it thorough? Was it effective? Was it fair?
3. How can a huge multinational corporation effectively ensure fair and safe labor practices?
4. Does this news and the Gap’s response make you more or less likely to purchase its products? Why?
5. What role do journalists play in promoting global human rights? If this news story hadn’t broke, would the Gap had made as much progress in combating child labor?

Week 4

Sadly, it’s already time to say goodbye. Each student should post at least once this week.

1. What have we learned about the existence of child labor in our two countries, and in the larger world? Is the exploitation of child labor truly a universal concept?
2. Beyond the question of child labor, what is our responsibility as global citizens to adapt our purchasing practices to try and bring about a better world?
3. What have we learned about each other and ourselves from this discussion?
4. Would you like to say goodbye to your new friends? What do you want them to know about your country?

In addition, Champlain College students should write a short reflective piece to be posted in their ePortfolio. What did you learn from the process? What were the similarities and differences that you discovered? What might explain them? What political, religious or cultural influences shaped these views? Are the viewpoints expressed in the Global Module shaped more by personal or larger societal influences?