Born to Work
More than 7 million children are forced to make a living in Bangladesh, often in appalling conditions. Photographer GMB Akash of Panos Pictures has captured the haunting images of children and adolescents hard at work.
The most shocking image from GMB Akash’s photos of child labor in Bangladesh depicts a young shirtless boy sitting in front of a sewing machine, raising a hand to protect himself from the textile factory owner’s coming blow, who was angry the boy wasn’t sewing fast enough. The 12-year-old, much like the estimated 7 million children in Bangladesh working for a living, sews for 10 hours a day and earns about a dollar.
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Akash, an award-winning Bangladeshi photographer, took the photo 13 years after child labor was outlawed in Bangladesh in 1992, and the international response to the image led Akash to dedicate himself to documenting children at work. The children in Akash’s alarming photos have dirty, industrial jobs, and make pennies a day hauling bricks, sorting garbage, sifting sand from stone, welding and sewing. One child works 10 hours a day in a rickshaw factory, finding respite for play when the electricity goes out and temporarily halts production. Factory owners in Bangladesh pay children less than one-fifth of what they pay adults, according to UNICEF, and don’t have to worry about their workers unionizing when they’re children.
“My intention is not just to depict the children as victims of exploitation,” Akash writes. “I want to show the complexity of the situation: the parents who send their little boy to work in a factory because they are poor; the child who has to work to earn a living for the family; the boss of the factory who is being pushed by big garment companies to cut production costs; and the Western consumers eager for cheaper and cheaper goods.”
Get Involved. How to Help: UNICEF works to protect children around the world in partnership with governments and the private sector. Free the Children helps end child labor through promoting education.