Is one minute of pleasure worth a lifetime of suffering? Are our actions really worth children’s torment? Is our love for chocolate that important where we ruin children’s lives? But I know that some of you have already decided to go to the vending machine and buy some chocolate after this forum. What’s the harm in that you may ask? It brings a whole new meaning of guilty pleasure. The chocolate that you eat from a vending machine is the product of a child’s back-breaking work. The Valentine’s day chocolate that you buy your valentine is the loss of a child’s childhood and the chocolate that you give to your friend is a child’s sacrifice for education.
My name is Aliya Islam, and I am so grateful to be able to talk to you in O-week at UQ. Today I am going to be talking to you about child labour in the cocoa industry and why this practice is morally repugnant. Why is this morally repugnant? One, because children are forced to do work that they are physically not capable of doing and the health conditions. And two, they are forced to lose their childhood, everyone deserves a childhood worth remembering.
Now onto my first point. Children are forced to do work on cocoa farms and do work that they are physically not capable of doing. I can already hear the cries of protest from those in favour of this immoral practice. They can declare the ‘these children do not have a choice, they have to do it to survive’. And you might be thinking no pain no gain, right? It doesn’t really make sense if they are forced, exploited, and violated from their rights, to do work for our pleasure. The pleasure of the exotic taste of chocolate, something which only lasts a minute for us, while they are stuck with the ‘pleasure’ of making this chocolate for their whole life. The ‘pleasure’ of working in hazardous conditions, where they use dangerous tools like machetes. Young children as young as six years old are ripped from living their life and are forced to have to do this and not only that but they have to carry very heavy loads and are exposed to pesticides. All activities which inflict pain and injury.
Some of the pesticides they use have been found to cause headaches, nausea, and diarrhoea. If you think that’s awful, they get kidney complications and even cancer. Think about it, your younger sister, only seven years old, was forced to use pesticides in cocoa farms and gets diagnosed with severe lung cancer, with only a couple more days of living. All because she had to use pesticides, and if she didn’t, she would be brutally beaten for not listening to their master. And that’s not all, she had to handle these pesticides without protective clothing. Why? because their so-called master, doesn’t want to spend anything more then they have to. They go through these children like tissues, because they know that they can easily replace the children. Is it really worth sabotaging of a child’s life? If you are not outraged by this treatment yet, the children have to labour in extreme heat, where the average midday temperature is 30-35˚C, while we sit inside and turn on the aircon when it gets to 25˚C. Is this the right treatment for young children? No, it’s not, it’s foul, ghastly, and atrocious, and these children do not deserve this highly detrimental treatment. All these children in cocoa farms have to do all this whilst battling poor nutrition and we can’t blame not taking any action to stop this because of our ignorance. This torture must stop.
But the abuse doesn’t stop there, these children are deprived of their childhood. Every child should have a childhood worth remembering, right? And boy do these children get one worth remembering. They get a childhood full of rape, abuse, torture, and not only that but permanent psychological trauma from working on a cocoa farm. Their childhood consists of working 30-100 hours a week of pouring all their blood, sweat, and tears into making chocolate in cocoa farms, which they don’t even get the benefit of eating. They have to work for the gratification of others, and not themselves. Children are the world’s most, purest and treasured beings, they don’t deserve to be exploited in this inhumane, immoral, and inane manner. You probably think only a couple hundred or so work on these farms and ‘sacrifice’ their childhoods, right? You’re wrong. You are completely and utterly wrong. More than 2 million children work on these cocoa plantations, and 500,000 of them work under abusive conditions. This is not an industry, it is a business. The façade that the cocoa industry puts up must be abolished. It’s a business that these children are born and enslaved into. Imagine being one of the 2 million children. Imagine being bought and sold into this business and getting your childhood ripped out of your grasp. You work day and night, hours on end, with no break, just to suffice an income for the day.
An income of $0.78, and that’s only if you’re lucky. Most days you get nothing, you don’t even know whether you will go home and eat dinner or whether you can go to work the next day. You live in a hut, with ten other kids aged 6-11. All of you have to cram onto the cold, hard concrete floor at night, just to get a wink of sleep. Your body is thin and frail and you could break in any minute. The only thing you had to eat was the bitter dust of cocoa beans hanging around in the air, and the only drink you had in days was the salty beads of sweat rolling down your small broken face. Only one of the ten people in your hut can go to school, and this is including have the ability to go to high school. If you think that this is diminishing and detestable treatment, then listen to what happens next. None of you have any say, in the type of work you have to do, whether it be using pesticides, machetes, or lifting extremely heavy loads, you just have to accept it, whether you are physically able to do it or not, because if you speak up, you get beaten, raped, and tortured. Your voice means nothing to the murderers that own you. You are forced to stay silent, your life is forever in an endless pitch of darkness, forever stuck in this silence, with nowhere to go.
Now that you have heard the dark and bitter secret behind this sweetness. I’m calling out to all the consumers of chocolate and chocolate lovers, boycott big brands like Nestle, Cadbury, and Mars, brands which still fund child labour by buying from those producers. They have broken their pledge to end child labour. Consumer power is strong, our actions speak louder than our words. If you think boycotting is not strong enough, then complain. Complain to the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. Our voices have power. Even with one complaint from each one of you, we can save a child’s life, and save them from appalling hardships and suffering, and send them to school. We have powerful and influencing voices and we should use them to do the right thing. Another thing you can do is protest. Protest and save these children and give them a brighter future. Be the glimmer of light in their darkness, because one less kit-kat can save a child’s life. So the choice is yours.