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Tinahy (12) works hard but starts the day without breakfast

November 27th, 2022

Twelve-year-old Tinahy walks proudly with a flashlight on his head. "That's not my lamp, it's my brother's," he says. In his hand he holds a piece of mica: a raw material that makes products shiny. For example smartphones. In the Netherlands, many boys of his age already have one in his pocket - not Tinahy. That won't change if he has to continue working in the mica mine. There he earns about 25 euro cents a day: just enough for dinner, but not for breakfast.

Tinahy in the mines
Tinahy in the mines

Up early every day

In Madagascar, almost half of all children between the ages of 5 and 17 work.  About 10,000 children work in mica mines.  They help their parents, because otherwise the family would not earn enough to survive.  Fathers and teenage boys dig mines and collect the stones.  The mothers, girls and young children stay upstairs to chip and clean the mica.  It is one of the worst forms of child labour: hard, unhealthy and dangerous work.

Tinahy also has to get up early every day to work.  He walks with his family to the mine, where they stay until about three o'clock.  His brother is 18 years old and goes down with a flashlight.  Tinahy is still too young for that.  "I don't go deep underground because I do the  triage  ," he says.  This means sifting the mica chunks to remove the soil and other waste.

Unfair pay

Tinahy leaves home without breakfast.  During the day he complains of stomach ache and hunger.  He only eats in the evening and then mainly rice.  Despite that, he manages to process about 5 kilos of mica every day, earning 1000 Ariary.  This amounts to about 0.25 euros. 

Tinahy's father is not happy.  Of all the mica he and his family bring up, he must pay half of the proceeds to the owner of the mine shaft.  That means less money to buy food.  And for his children perhaps just the difference between having breakfast or not.

No school

Tinahy has never been to school.  The chance that this will happen (without help) is small.  After all, Madagascar is one of the top 5 countries with the most uneducated children.  When asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he replies: 'Doctor.'  When we ask him if he wouldn't rather be a photographer, pointing to the man with the camera around his neck, he says, 'No, because I wouldn't know how such a thing works.'

Terre des Hommes stands up for children like Tinahy.  We make sure they can go to school.  We are also working on fairer remuneration for the mica, so that families have more income without their children having to work.  Help by supporting us.

Action for Children in the Mica Mines
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