Letter: Children in slavery

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The Independent Online
Children in slavery

A FEW years ago I spent several months in Pakistan, where I was born. I was given wonderful hospitality. But I was also taken on a visit to some brickfields ("Film exposes child slavery", 24 February).

Two things come back to mind that seem especially poignant. One is the smile that an eight- or nine-year-old was able to give me as he loaded his man-sized barrow with clay; the other is the sight of a little baby, asleep on the bare earth in the shade of a pile of raw bricks waiting for the kiln; it was likely to be the only time of rest and peace that the child was going to have until death.

Something must be done, about the brickfields and the whole child labour scene in Pakistan, but it needs to be done with sensitivity and understanding, or matters will be made worse. Working children (and bonded labourers generally) are so enmeshed in the Pakistan economy that it will need much painstaking work to bring them their freedom. The tiny Christian church in Pakistan is trying to alleviate the situation, with great courage but minuscule resources, and so too are some Muslims and human rights groups, but they too are small in number.