Target: Ministry of Labor and Employment, Tanzania
Goal: Enforce child labor laws in Tanzania so children can go to school
Children who are as young as eight years old are working in Tanzanian gold mines to make ends for their families meet. While many of these children wish to go to school, they are obligated to buy their own supplies and work in the mines to have money. This cuts into their education, as working often tires out the children or forces them to miss class. The Tanzanian government has strict laws that prohibit children from working but they are rarely enforced in both licensed and unlicensed mines.
Tanzania is the fourth largest gold producer in the world, and this demand means more labor and more workers. Mining is an extremely dangerous job, the risks of which are dramatically heightened for children lifting heavy bags filled with ore or operating heavy machinery. Mine shafts have collapsed onto children, and the child and the families are not compensated for the injuries or loss of a loved one. Mercury is used to extract gold from rock, but mercury is toxic to the human body. When inhaled or ingested, mercury attacks the central nervous system which can cause life long disabilities. Families burn mercury in their homes alongside the children and the fumes can travel for kilometers. Unfortunately many adults and children do not know about the health risks of mercury poisoning.
Alongside the dangers of working with mercury, many of the children who work the mines are subjected to long hours, sometimes working as many as 24 hours with only a few minutes break. They are exposed to dust which causes long term lung problems, the mine could collapse on them, and they could of course be injured by machinery and heavy bags of rock. Girls who work in the mines are subjected to sexual harassment and are encouraged to engage in sexual work. Doing so would put them at risk of contracting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.
The Tanzanian government should enforce their child labor laws to ensure that their young ones get to go to school. Inspectors should regularly check the mines and ensure that safety regulations are in place. Children donn’t belong in mines, they should be in school or learning vocational skills. Sign the petition below to urge the Minister of Labor and Employment to keep children out of the mines.
Dear Ministry of Labor and Employment,
I am writing to implore you to heavily enforce your child labor laws in Tanzania. It is commendable that you have labor laws that restrict children from working in the mines, however unless those laws are executed, children will continue working. Unfortunately many of these children are orphans or have other circumstances that require them to work. I also ask that you strive to put these children through school as their living conditions are one of the driving reasons for them to enter mine work. Children cannot work in the mines as their bodies are not developed for the work. Furthermore the dangers of mercury poisoning, heavy machinery and the back breaking labor are hazardous to their health.
Children belong in school and many of those working wish to be in school. They have dreams of doing other kinds of work like teaching or becoming a nurse, and the government should give those children that kind of opportunity. But if they are forced to work in mines because their family needs money or cannot afford their school supplies, it further cuts into their education. They are too tired to focus or their minds are elsewhere. Again I implore you to enforce your laws because children deserve an education.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: International Labor Organization via Human Rights Watch