Onderstaand artikel is gepubliceerd in: The Times of India, 28-5-2002      

Child With A Mission To Be At World Cup Kick-Off

New Delhi, May 28, 2002

Fifteen –years –old Sonia from India will be among the thousands who will flock to Japan and Korea for the World Cup when it kicks off later this week.

Sonia, however, is not your average football fan. She will be in Korea on a special mission. As a former child labourer; who was engaged in stitching footballs near Jalandhar before she was rescued, Sonia will plead for an end to the economic exploitation of children.

Participating in the World Cup Campaign 2002- Kick Child Labour out of the World, she will draw attention to the plight of children like her who are exploited in the sports goods industry Sonia had herself lost her eyesight at the age of seven but learnt to stitch footballs by touch alone.

The basic purpose of the global campaign is to use the biggest international sporting event to highlight the issue of child rights and raise awareness on child labour in the sports goods industry and in general. The campaign has urged FIFA, the organising body of the World Cup, to implement the no child labour policy.

FIFA, which has joined the UNICEF in raising awareness on children's’ rights, has agreed to a "Code of Labour Practice" which prohibits the use of child labour in any production line of FIFA-licensed footballs.

"However; the truth is that child labour in football stitching is still very much prevalent today. India is the second largest producer of footballs after Pakistan with the industry being concentrated in and around Jalandhar," says Kailash Satyarthi, chairperson of the Global March Against Child Labour which has joined in launching this campaign. He says a report- The Dark Side of Football, published last year, indicates there are still more than 10,000 children involved in football stitching in Punjab, some of them as young as five-year –olds.

Documenting the plight of football stitchers, the report gives ample evidence that the labour conditions, which are part of the contract between FIFA and the sporting goods industry, are violated on a large scale. "The wages are generally far below the official minimum wage while the health, safety and sanitary conditions are grossly inadequate." Says the report.

It goes on to state that many of the children suffer from loss of eye-sight, chronic back and neck pains, cuts on their fingers and even deformation of their fingers.

Satyarthi also complains that though FIFA has agreed to implement a Code of Labour Practice, the organising body is still not ready to "play fair", having failed to comply with its own code. It has sponsored inspection teams in Pakistan and India for the eradication of child labour but this applies only to a small fraction of the 17,000-licensed goods, he adds.





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