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Child Labor: Teen Activism And Companies

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. How it all started
  3. Iqbal Masih
  4. Iqbal Masih’s Story

    Iqbal Escapes:

  5. Craig Keilberger: Teen Activist
  6. Craig becomes an Activist:

    Free the Children:

  7. Companies that use Child Labor
  8. Apple


    Chocolate Factories

  9. Final Thoughts and How you can Help


Over 250 million kids from ages 1-16 are getting tied into child labor (Maki,2018) Luckily, there are many teen activists looking to help these children. Like Craig Keilberger, he opened “Free the Children”, a non-profit organization devoted to stop child labor, and it has helped millions of kids to this day. Or Iqbal Masih, escaped from being in child labor himself, and got assassinated for telling the world what he had been through. Many of our favorite companies use or have used child labor as well. Many of these companies are very surprising, and it shows just how many people still use child labor.

Child labor is a serious problem and many people overlook it, but it must be stopped. Child labor happens all over the world, from places like America, to places like India and China, all the way across the world! Yet, in all of these places it is illegal. People are breaking the law for reasons like the companies not wanting to pay adults, the parents needing help funding the family, and families moving around a lot and the kids not being able to go to school, so they work on fields to stay occupied (“Child Labor”, 2019). But the kids needing to stay occupied is no excuse to use child labor. They definitely would have been able to figure something else out, like homeschool.

How it all started

Child Labor started during the 1700-1800, the same time as the Industrial Revoultion (Lee, 2019). This happened because during the Industrial Revolution people needed more workers so they decided to use children. However, that is still not ok. Those people thought that there was nothing wrong with it, but doing that led to a serious problem in today’s generation.

People decided to use children in factories and mines because they could fit into the smaller places, and once one person did this everyone wanted kids to work for them (Lee, 2019). This is what caused child labor to grow, and very quickly. No one thought it was a problem, so it all just continued, and it still has not stopped.

Thus, child labor is not ok, and yet still so many people still do it today. People do not realize how much pain they are causing to families and kids. Even if they have done something that makes someone mad, or borrowed money, that does not entitle them to their child.

Iqbal Masih

Iqbal Masih had a very hard life. He had to go through the tourture of child labor and spoke for what he belived in. Sadly, he spoke his mind he got assassinated, and because of Iqbal’s tragic story he has inspired many others to do the same as him. Iqbal has inspired many others to stop child labor, and that make a huge difference in our world.

Iqbal Masih’s Story

Iqbal got into child labor the same way most of the children he worked with got in. His parents had to pay of their debt because of his brother’s wedding. His brother got married and his family was not very privileged, so they took a loan from the local carpet company when Iqbal was only four years old (Iqbal’s Brief Biography, 2019). He was a very young boy and twelve dollars was a lot of money back then. His parents had no other choice but to give their son up to the horrible thekedar.

However, Iqbal got very little food, and the one bowl of rice he got a day that he did get he had to pay off as well, this made it impossible to work off his debt (Iqbal’s Brief Biography, 2019). The important thing about this is that he had to work for so long to pay off the original debt, but the fact that the thekedar would make him pay for the food was outrageous. The thekader definitely knew what he was doing, he just wanted more kids to work for him for longer periods of time.

The debt Iqbal had to pay off was originally twelve dollars, but it kept growing by the day. Even though Iqbal worked twelve hours a day he only earned two cents each day (Iqbal’s Brief Biography, 2019). This matters because Iqbal would have had to work for at least 6 more years to pay off his parents debt. It was not his debt to pay, and yet he still had to work.

He worked in a very small room, with very little light, and there were about 20 other boys there, making it very cramped (Iqbal’s Brief Biography, 2019). This is important because, not only were they working in harsh conditions, but they also had to resist the urge to talk to each other. If they did talk to each other they would get harshly punished and the punishments got worse by the day.

If they tried to escape and got caught they would get thrown into a pot of boiling oil, if they were working to slow they got whipped on their bare backs, and if they began to doze off the carpet masters would cut their finger and yell at them saying, “Do not get blood on the carpets!” (Iqbal’s Brief Biography, 2019). This matters because these punishments are very harsh and left scars on the boys for life. Not only was the thekedar illegally keeping them and forcing them to work, but he was also abusing the children, and their parents were aware of this.

Iqbal Escapes:

Iqbal finally escaped that horrid carpet company using a pamphlet about children’s rights (Iqbal’s Brief Biography, 2019). We can learn from this that just being able to read a little piece of paper can be very helpful. Iqbal was one of the more privileged kids there, because he was able to read and write. He used the pamphlet to his advantage. He knew it would not be smart of him to show it to thekedar, so instead he kept it a secret. He got ideas from the pamphlet and used them to help him escape (Iqbal’s Brief Biography, 2019). It was not easy but Iqbal had done it! He had finally escaped.

Iqbal had decided to share his story with the world. He told the whole world what had happened to him and how the thekedar treated him. He knew it was a huge risk sharing his story, but he felt he had to do this, so the thekedar could be stopped. Iqbal was boarding a train at the mere age of 12 years old and then it happened, someone had shot him (Iqbal’s Brief Biography, 2019). This makes one wonder about why someone would want to kill him. The thekedar had a motive but was very evil to have done that.

He was rushed to the nearest hospital, but the doctors could not save him. His mother and many other people suspect it was the thekedar, but it is not confirmed, meaning his murderer is unknown (Iqbal’s Brief Biography, 2019). This means that thekadsar’s cannot be trusted, because not only Iqbal’s mother suspect, but many other people also do, but do have any actual evidence to back them up.

Iqbal lived an honorable life, and still inspires many people today. He spoke his mind, and got shot for it. The person who shot him thought they could stop people from speaking their minds, but he did the exact opposite. Killing Iqbal encouraged others, in a way, to speak their minds because they never wanted anything like this to happen again.

Craig Keilberger: Teen Activist

Craig Keilberger was just a normal 11 year old boy who was reading the newspaper, when he sees an article about Iqbal Masih, a recently assassinated 12 year old. Craig got interested and started looking deeper into Iqbal’s life. He noticed he was a teen activist and when he heard abiut Iqbal’s tragic story Craig wanted to speak up and help stop child labor. So, he became a teen activist.

A teen activist is a teen, someone our age, who sees a problem in the world. They take action to help put the problem to a stop and most make a huge difference in the world. Some activists even inspire others, just like in this case. Iqbal inspired Craig to become an activist. If Iqbal had not spoken up for what he believed in Craig may not have even became an activist.

Craig becomes an Activist:

Craig started off small. At first he just spoke his class about it, but then Craig thought bigger. Craig decided to start a petition. He collected 3,000 signatures and sent a letter to the prime minister of India about stopping child labor ( Rysavy, 1999). Craig had started taking bigger actions, and they were definitely making a difference.

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Even though, the prime minister refused in the beginning, Craig then told people about the incident, and the minister was shamed. He then sent a letter back to Craig saying that he would look into stuff. He then started to give public speeches informing people about the problem of child labor. Eventually, after all of this hard work, Craig became a big activist.

Free the Children:

After all of this happened Craig’s name was all over articles. Craig and Mark Keilberger created an organization called ‘Free the Children’. This organization has helped children all around the world and The brothers travel around the world together to see the conditions of the children in labor. In one of his travels to India Craig met a girl named Muniall on the streets. She was about the age of 8 and was sorting needles when Craig had found her ( Rysavy, 1999). Craig asked her exactly what she was doing and she quietly replied saying that she was sorting the needles from the plastic, so her boss would not hear her and punish her ( Rysavy, 1999). She did not have any protective gear on and was at risk of getting disease. But sadly, she could not do anything to help herself.

Muniall was not the only kid Craig met. He also went to labor camps and met many other kids as well. Some of them had never stepped foot outside the camp and did not even know what school was (We Movement, 2016)! Seeing this made Craig sad, but also motivated him more to help the kids. He was very determined to put child labor to an end, so he booked mre speeches. He was speaking publicly at many places, and it seems to be helping.

To this day, Craig and Mark are still working hard to help their organization grow, and make child labor smaller. Craig had a passion and he followed it. He got really into helping child labor come to an end. That one day when he read the newspaper changed his life completely. He has also made such a big difference, and we can all thank him.

Companies that use Child Labor

150 billion dollars have been collected in child labor fines.CITE That means so many of out favorite companies may have used child labor, and luckily got caught. Many of these companies are very surprising like, Apple, H&M, GAP, Hersheys, Nestle, Mars, and Ferrero Roche. Some of the most popular companies have used child labor, especially chocolate companies.


3,000 high school students were forced to assemble the Iphone X in China (Vega, 2017). These students were told this would count as their volunteer hours for school, but in reality they were just being forced to work. Once they had figured this out, it was too late and they were not able to get out of working.

These children spanned from the ages of 17-19 and worked for 3 months after school everyday (Vega,2017). This makes one wonder, about how it could have been any group of kids that they could have targeted for this. The people working at Apple in China knew exactly what they were doing, but did not seem to care.


H&M factories in Myanmar are forcing kids as young as 14 to work 12 hours a day (Butler, 2016). This matters because it is taking a toll on these kids life and it could have happened to any one of us. It is against the law and this just shows some of the most popular brands still have things to hide.

14-17 year olds have been working these long hours from 2013-2016 (Butler, 2016). This is important because these children have been working for three years straight everyday, and their parents were aware of it. Their parents were ok with it and did not speak up for their children.

Chocolate Factories

Millions of kids are working on cocoa farms with a chainsaw two times their size cutting open cocoa beans that are 3 times their size (Rivero, 2004). This makes one wonder about how hard it must be to work on cocoa farms. They have to carry things that are so much heavier than they are and are expected to be able to even though they don’t get fed enough to build up that strength.

Companies like Hersey’s, Mars, Nestle, and Ferrero Roche all use child labor because it is cheaper payment to kids (Rivero, 2004). This matters because almost three times a week we take at least a little bite of chocolate. This means we are giving in to child labor by buying these products.

Overall, companies using child labor is very wrong and sadly, many of us unknowingky give into it. These are companies that we would never suspect to do something wrong because they are so popular, so we just assume they are trustworthy. We need to be more aware of how much child labor is happening around us, so we don’t give into it.

Final Thoughts and How you can Help

In conclsion, child labor is something that happens way to much all around the world. It is a very serious problem, and yet no matter how hard we try we just cannot seem to get it to stop. Many people our age are trying to help solve this problem, but there is more than one way to help stop child labor.

To help solve problems like this, you do not have to be an activist like Craig or Iqbal, but you definitely should not be a “bystander” like a lot of people are. There many ways you can help make an impact on stopping child labor like, writing a blog, so people are more aware of the problem. You can also post on social media about it, and create hashtags like, #stopchildlabor or #childrensrights.

It would help even more if you made a dsignated social media account about stopping child labor where you can post pictures about it, or gain followers. Gaining followers is a good thing, and not for the popularity, but if you gain followers on spcified child labor account that means more people are aware of it.

Other than using social media, you can also help stop child labor by donating to organizations that help stop child labor. “Free the Children” is the organization that Craig and Mark Keilberger have worked so hard to create. Just one small donation of five dollars can help so much.

Lastly, a really great way to help stop child labor is to stop buying stuff from brands that use it. If you do buy products from the brands that use child labor those companies will be making a profit from forcing kids to work, and you will also be giving into child labor.

Creating hashtags, or social media accounts can also inspire other kids who might become big child labor activists. Take Craig for example, all he saw was one article about Iqbal and what happened to him and he has made a huge difference today.

All in all, there are many ways you can help stop child labor, or make people more aware it or the companies that use it. So many people have been working are to stop it, making it illegal, giving speeches, and much more. Sadly, it just does not seem to stop. Luckily, we have activists like Craig Keilberger and Iqbal Masih to hopefully stop, or minimize it. If everyone tries their best to donate, post on social media, or make articles about this topic we will definitely complete the goal of these two activists.

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Child Labor: Teen Activism And Companies. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from
“Child Labor: Teen Activism And Companies.” Edubirdie, 18 Feb. 2022,
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Child Labor: Teen Activism And Companies [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 18 [cited 2023 Sept 29]. Available from:
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