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Cartoons for Change highlight scourge of child labour

A cartoon drawn by Javi Salado for the Cartoons for Change 365 initiative. The image depicts how some children are subject to labour while others enjoy their childhoods (Source: Cartoons for Change, Javi Salado)

Today (Friday 20 November) is the International Day of the Child. Sadly, nearly 152 million children worldwide have nothing to celebrate because they must work. Cartoons for Change has launched a global initiative to display 365 cartoons on the Berlin Wall for next year’s International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.

In July 2019 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution declaring 2021 as the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, and asked the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to take the lead in its implementation.

The resolution highlights the member states’ commitments “to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms”.

Alliance 8.7 and the ILO estimate that, around the world, there are 151.6 million children (aged five to 17) in child labour. One in five children in Africa is involved in child labour, making it the region with the greatest amount of child labour, followed by Asia and the Pacific region.

Activist and founder of Cartoons for Change, Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, has set out an ambitious goal to source 365 cartoons for next year’s Year of the Child. These cartoons will be displayed on the Berlin Wall.

Morales-de la Cruz says that at Cartoons for Change, “We decided to invite cartoonists and illustrators from all continents to protest for 365 days, starting now during the virtual summit of the ILO, to demand that governments and multinationals stop child labour.

“In my opinion, ILO child labour figures underestimate the total number of exploited children. In Asia, the ILO underestimates them by more than 100 million children, in Africa more than 30 million children. This means that the total number of children working worldwide today may be very close to 300 million,” says Morales-de la Cruz.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable, cruel and illegal that 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 30 years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child nearly 300 million children work. This must change and it must change now.”

Africartoons, a pan-African collective of editorial cartoonists that was launched on Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday in 2008 by South African cartoonist John Curtis, is among those who answered Morales-de la Cruz’s call.

Morales-de la Cruz contacted Curtis, inviting Africartoons to participate in the project, saying that, “The Sustainable Development Goals have failed the poorest, in large part, due to the cruel business models of multinationals and the greed of developed countries. They have increased misery, hunger, malnutrition, child labour and forced migration, all for profit. I would appreciate very much if you and your colleagues from Africartoons considered creating cartoons about this important topic for Africa and the rest of the global South.”

Curtis says that Africartoons “welcomed the opportunity” to participate in the Cartoons for Change initiative.

“Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa in particular, is deeply affected by this cruel exploitation, and cartoons are a powerful medium to bring these injustices to light.

“Africartoons has been developing Cartoons for Social Justice in partnership with Maverick Citizen, where we produce cartoons tailored to promote social justice every week, and we also work with Greenpeace, Outa and many other NPOs and foundations to this end. Besides being an effective medium for socio-political commentary, cartoons can educate and advocate, and so this campaign was another perfect fit.”

You can view some of these cartoons here and here.

Curtis and Bethuel Mangena have submitted two cartoons for the Berlin Wall protest:

‘FREE THE CHILD’ by John Curtis, borrowing from the works of Banksy.
‘CROSSROADS’, by Bethuel Mangena, calls out multinationals complicit in child labour.

Many more Africartoonists intend to submit cartoons against child labour for the project’s greater campaign: 365 Cartoons Against Child Labour, which starts on 1 January 2021. One of them is Thulani Ntsong (who signs his work 2Lani) who, with Curtis, is a Maverick Citizen contributor.

Morales-de la Cruz says, “The quality of the Cartoons for Change we have received is exceptional, the immense enthusiasm of cartoonists to join the cause is something I did not expect. This gives us the assurance that our global campaign will have a significant impact.” DM/MC

Cartoonists throughout Africa – professional or aspirant – who would like to add their voice to this campaign, are invited to email their work to [email protected]

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