In the first in a series of features on child labour and exploitation, World Vision finds out about children working in Brazil’s markets and Bolivia’s tin mines
“If we don’t work, what are we going to eat?” Rafael, 10, Brazil
From dawn to dusk, the Mercado de la Produccion (Produce Market) in Brazil’s Maceió city hums with the noise and activity of thousands of patrons who come for the bargain prices on a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood, medicinal roots and herbs.
Among the bustle, bands of children swarm the aisles, peddling bags of produce. In another corner of the market, ten-year-old Rafael leans against a post next to a battered wheelbarrow that he uses to load and carry heavy bags and boxes of produce out to customers’ cars and into their houses. Rafael has never been to school, and rarely has time for play. Instead, he works all day, nearly every day.
Children like Rafael work to help their families to make ends meet. A slow day at the market may mean they all go to bed hungry.
The issue of child labour affects more than 200 million children around the world; children who work under conditions that breach and put at risk their fundamental rights to health, education and protection against exploitation and violence.
“In exchange for my childhood” is a new series of booklets on child labour and exploitation in Latin America and the Caribbean, produced by World Vision. The first two booklets in the series focus on children working in tin mines in Bolivia; and Brazil, where children like Rafael work in the markets.
Through a series of interviews, child labourers speak out, sharing their own stories. Photographs capture their experiences, and detailed descriptions of their working environments – the smell of the debris-strewn markets, the blackness of the mine shafts’ darkest depths – paint a stark portrait of daily life for children who work.
Jorge is one of them.
“If you fall in the mine, no one’s gonna take you out. You die right there and that’s it.”
With the publication of “In exchange for my childhood”, World Vision wants to make a contribution in tackling child labour by making proposals and inviting readers to share closely in the lives and experiences of children working in 14 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The series will continue to launch during the year, based on child labour studies from a further 11 countries, including Chile, El Salvador and Mexico.
To read more of Rafael’s and Jorge’s experiences, and those of other children working in Brazil and Bolivia, visit World Vision Latin America and the Caribbean's website.