Third world street children
I wanted to post something a couple weeks back about a proposed bill that is going through Mexico’s congress to “ban” street children. I don’t think the word “ban” is exactly right, the way I read it is Mexico wants to get more kids of the street by making it a fine if a public official sees a child (under 14) working on the street and does not take that kid to social services.
Not to get too much into the article, but the other point that is made is that kids work on the street – doing a myriad of things from washing windshields to selling almost anything – for money that supplements family income. I’m not one to judge because living can be pretty tough, especially when you live in a country so poor. But I have seen this in every country that I have visited: Afghanistan, Colombia, Ecuador, and now Mexico. To me, however, money earned from street labor is often obtained in an exploitative way. Especially from kids in some countries.
Yes, in Mexico it does seem like many of the kids are co-located with a parent who is doing something similar to make money or the parents are at least close by. But even then I get the impression that these kids are taken out of school at times to make money that isn’t really necessary or could be made if the parent worked harder or made better choices.
With that, the worst forms of child street labor that I have seen were in Ecuador, Colombia, and Afghanistan. In all of these countries, it seemed more apparent that the kids weren’t working to supplement a family income. I have strong inclinations that these kids were selling goods for someone who in turn paid them little money or perhaps just gave them a place to sleep (akin to what happens in Slumdog Millionaire). For instance, a kid would come up with a tray full of everything from cigarettes to gum to magazines and he/she would be making plenty of money. But, when I offered one of these kids some food they acted like they hadn’t eaten in weeks. Even though there was food on their tray.
Anyways, this is a little rant. But it is just something that I think is pretty endemic to most developing countries and often times represents serious exploitation.
And it kind of goes along with the picture – which is a cool circus stunt, but at the top is some little kid balancing on the shoulders of two relatives while skirting traffic on one of the busiest streets in Mexico City.