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wednesday, october 22nd, 2014

Diamonds Are Forever, But Not The Lives Of Child Workers

by Travis Molina
November 2006

Child Slavery is a major issue that continues around the world because young workers aging from eight to about sixteen work in hazardous sweatshops that have poor conditions. These youths are subjected to long hours with little pay, overcrowding, and disease. Products such as Mardi Gras beads, cheap toys, clothes and jewelry are all manufactured by child slaves. Establishments such as Wal-Mart and the Nike Shoe Company do sell products that were made from child slave labor. Child Slavery exists because child workers are a means of cheap employment that business owners exploit so that they can make more profit. The Diamond Industry is an infamous venue of exploitation towards youth workers. Mines in South Africa and India are notorious locations of various sweatshops that produce exquisite diamonds that were made by the hands of child slaves.

Diamonds are symbols of love, dedication and wealth. To young couples, a diamond ring is the perfect gift to the woman you love. The bigger the diamond, the more a man loves his woman. These gems do not come cheap though. A one eighth cut; round diamond solitaire promise ring in 10K gold alone costs two hundred and twenty-nine dollars. However, an extravagant gift such as this ring does come at a higher price; the price of blood and health. Child slaves have suffered to make a diamond which is overpriced and funded for wars. The question is, “is it worth buying a small gem that slaves worked arduously for”?

Diamond mines are first and foremost a dangerous work site. These mines are nothing more than open pits of heavy minerals, oil, machinery exhaust, and any other rubbish seeps into.

In addition to being an open pit for mining operations, Diamond Mines are located on the land indigenous people. In order to collect these valuable gems, the indigenous people had to be moved. These natives were persuaded to relocate to a different area, or their land was stolen.

The DeBeers Group is notorious for the marketing of diamonds and for their cruel work conditions. This corporation was founded in 1880 but it was not until the 20th century did they become famous. The Oppenheimers, who were the shareholders, took control of DeBeer’s financial direction and slowly guided it into what this corporation is today. Before the end of the 19th century came, a large diamond rush started in South Africa. In order to take advantage of this startling claim, DeBeers needed a large work force to mine the diamonds. Calling upon thousands of migrant workers, DeBeers had their labor force. Production was successful; however, in paranoia of theft, the workers were confined.

DeBeers marketed diamonds as the perfect engagement gift, “Diamonds are forever” and encouraged people to buy them. By advertising their diamond as the quintessential gift of love, numerous men felt they were obligated to spend as much as three thousand dollars for their spouse. Unknowingly to consumers, these diamonds were far overpriced. This marketing adage eliminated any competition towards selling used diamonds. By holding a monopoly over the sales of diamonds, DeBeers was king. Behind their catchy advertisements, there was a darker truth of their corporation. Their workers whom of which are mostly black Africans ranging from teens to adulthood had to live on the mining premises where their wage was exchanged for accommodations. The workers had poor conditions and pay. Youth workers were abused and easily exploited.

Although diamonds are exquisite gems, the people who mine the diamonds are exposed to numerous health risks and hazards. It is reported that diamond miners are exposed to malaria, dysentery and sexual diseases. In addition to those diseases, child laborers in diamond mines suffer from eye strain, headaches, mal nutrition, and respiratory problems. Child slaves are also subjected to working in poor conditions. Overcrowding, abuse, long work hours and cheap pay are but only a few problems these slaves face each day. Child slaves are paid for how many diamonds they can polish or cut per day. The ordinary amount of money a worker will get for polishing the uppermost section of a diamond is two rupees, which is below eight cents [US Currency]. For workers that make smaller diamonds, they might be paid fifteen to twenty dollars [US Currency] per week. As for the homes of the child slaves in Surat, it is either their workplace or a small hovel

Children become slaves for various reasons. The majorities of the families in third world countries are poor and have to rely on their children’s income to survive. In other cases, most children do not have the opportunity to gain an education from their local school system. Because these children are denied an education, working at a sweatshop is their only option in life. In other instances, families bond their children. Bonding is when an employer pays the family in advance and in turn, the child works to pay off the debt. Unfortunately, bonded children cannot pay their family’s debt because of interest. With the increase in owed money, bonded children are forced into a life of servitude which will pass onto their descendants.

There are organizations and authors who are trying to make the world aware about the plight of child slaves in the diamond industry. These people are Janine Roberts, The Anti-Slavery Society, IndianNGO, Child Labour News Service (CLNS) managed by the Global March Against Child Labor, and IHS Child Slave Labor News. They write about the suffrage, inhumanity and abuse that child slave workers face each day. The rap artist, Kanye West, wrote a song about the child slaves in diamond mines of Sierra Leone in his song, “Diamonds from Sierra Leone”. Kayne’s song revealed to the media about the hard life of child workers in Sierra Leone.

There are many child slaves in the diamond mining industry. It is reported that about eleven percent of the work force in the late 1980’s were underage. Several years later in 1994, sixteen percent of the workforce was underage. Currently there are over 171 million children that work in hazardous work sites such as factories and mines. According to these statistics, there are myriads of children that desperately need help from being exploited.

Child slave labor is a practice that is commonly used in various work places such as agriculture, factory and mines. Employers seek young children and deceive them into working at their sweatshops with the promise of making a suitable income. These child slaves are then subjected to abuse, disease, low pay and suffrage. It is reported that child labor exists predominately in the diamond mining industry. Slaver workers polish and cut diamonds which are sold to various countries at expensive amounts. Slaves are also exposed to the hazardous conditions of the diamond mine environment. Child Slavery in all of its forms should be outlawed and discontinued.

Sources Used:

http://www.indianngos.com/issue/child/labour/resources/industry_gemstone.htm
http://www.globalmarch.org/clns/clns-dec-2004-details.php
http://www.wikipedia.org
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/198202/diamond
http://www.seeklyrics.com/lyrics/Kanye-West/Diamonds-From-Sierra-Leone.html
http://inquirer.gn.apc.org/childcut.html
http://www.easybib.com/
http://www.fguide.org/Bulletin/conflictdiamonds.htm
http://www.unicefusa.org/site/c.duLRI8O0H/b.262152/k.221E/State_of_the_Worlds_Children__Publications__Media_Center__US_Fund_for_UNICEF.htm
http://www.anti-slaverysociety.addr.com/diamonds.htm
http://www.minesandcommunities.org/Company/diamonds1.htm
http://www.anti-slaverysociety.addr.com/cxcwfcl.htm

Available online at http://ihscslnews.org/

Immaculata Child Slave Labor News
Immaculata High School, Somerville, NJ

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