What You Can Do
What Craig is doing now
The power of one --- yes, one
person can make a difference in the world. Small differences can mark the
beginning of substantial change.
At the age of 12, Craig
Kielburger organized his friends and classmates in Thornhills, Ontario,
Canada, a suburb of Toronto, in 1996, to form a organization called Free
The Children, an international network of children aimed at eradicating
child slave labor around the world. Most people in his country did
not know that there were child slaves in the world today.
What prompted him to inform
his classmates and initiate action? One morning Craig read a small
newspaper article about the murder of Iqbal Masik, a 12-year old
Pakistani boy who had been a slave in a carpet factory since the age of
Iqbal had never been to
school, never had the freedom of a normal child. Instead, he had worked
12 and 14 hour days in a factory since he was 4 years old. When at last
he was freed from enslavement by the Pakistani police, Iqbal tried to
bring child slavery to public attention. He demonstrated and spoke with
journalists. When Iqbal was 12 years old, he was murdered, a crime that
Would no one else tell
the world that there were child slaves?
Craig was the same age as
Iqbal. Their worlds were very different and this shocked Craig. He began
to look further into a terrible secret, that there were thousands of
children like Iqbal who had been kidnapped and enslaved to work in
carpet factories and with hazardous materials. Craig discovered, that,
in fact, many of those carpets from factories where children were
imprisoned as workers were imported into Canada and other
Craig and his schoolmates did ...
Craig and his schoolmates
signed petitions and faxed world leaders, including their own prime
minister in Canada. Free The Children was funded
- and still is --- by
garage sales, pop sales, car washes, and bake sales run by children.
one on the Board of Directors of the organization was older than 18.
They brought a secret horror
to the attention of the world --- children enslaved from an early age to
work in factories and sweatshops, working 14 hour days, without a chance
to go to school, beaten, mistreated, living behind barbed wire fences and
cement block walls, with no future, no education, and little chance for
happiness. Children enslaved as prostitutes was another secret horror that
the organization addressed.
At the age of 14, Craig
went to the slums, sweatshops, and back alleys of South Asia to find those
enslaved children. He accompanied police on a raid to free children in
a factory, and he went with the police when those children were returned
to their parents. He talked with the families about their joys and
Craig and Free The Children
began to focus on a pair of goals, to ensure that Canada would investigate
the process of labeling imported rugs to identify those not made by
children, and to change the law so police can criminally charge Canadians
who use child prostitutes in foreign countries.
didn't agree with Craig Kielburger, and what he did about it
He suffered public attacks
for what he was bringing to light. Not everyone agreed with him. Some
couldn't cope with his age, inferring that he was too young to be
telling adults and politicians, much less entire countries, what they
should and shouldn't do. When he brought up the topic of children
enslaved as prostitutes, older adults felt he had overstepped an
unspoken boundary -- that children should not speak of these topics.
Furthermore, a Brazilian
social worker argued in a popular magazine that solutions to the problem
of child exploitation are very complex and raised this question,
"Why is it that North Americans always think that they can save the
Free the Children
persevered. Within two years, the organization had raised enough
money --- from coin donations coming from classrooms --- to help fund a
rehabilitation center that takes in Pakistani youngsters who have
escaped slavery. The rehabilitation center provides shelter and an
informal school for the young children, keeping them out of the child
labor system. Germany adopted a tag called "Rugmark," for
carpets that were not made through the exploitation of children. A
coalition of major US sporting goods manufacturers pledged not to buy
soccer balls stitched by Pakistani children.
Craig is now a dedicated
activist for children's rights. Free the Children has initiated
projects all over the world, opening more than 100 schools and
rehabilitation centers for enslaved and exploited children. These
children often suffer from years of physical and psychological abuse.
The Children organizes leadership programs for youth that teaches
activism and public speaking skills, and links children on an
international level so they can stop child slavery and make sure that
all children around the world have basic human rights and freedoms.
In 1999 Craig and his
brother Marc founded Leaders Today,
an organization to teach leadership skills and empower children around
the world to fight for their rights. There are Leaders Today centers in
Kenya and Ecuador.
Read more about Craig and Marc at the
Nov. 20, 1959. Principle
#9 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child states:
"The child shall be protected
against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation. He shall not
be the subject of traffic, in any form. The child shall not be
admitted to employment before an appropriate minimum age; he shall in
no case be caused or permitted to engage in any occupation or
employment which would prejudice his health or education, or interfere
with his physical, mental or moral development."
Kielburger has written a book called
The Children, A Young Man Fights Against Child Labor and Proves that
Children Can Change the World.
project of Free The Children --- supported by donations from school
children around the world --- gives farm animals to desperately poor
families so that the families do not have to consider selling their
children as slaves.