Representatives of corporations, NGOs, government, and multi stakeholder initiatives working on responsible sourcing came together to discuss how this problem could be eradicated. Central to the discussion were the findings of the recent research conducted by Terre des Hommes (TDH) about the global mica market.
Children in mica mines
It was the second time that TDH succeeded in bringing together key stakeholders to discuss the issue of child labour. In 2016, TDH conducted research that indicated that approximately 20,000 children were working in the Indian mica belt. While this figure is shocking, it is actually thought to be much higher. TDH’s baseline field survey revealed that more than 22.000 children are involved in the mica industry visiting only 40% of the villages in the region. The others couldn’t be reached at the moment due to safety risks.
Dangerous and unhealthy work
As a result of impending poverty, the lack of schools and early childhood centres in the proximity and lack of means to travel to distant educational facilities, most of the children working in the mica mines don’t attend school, but are forced to work with their parents. The work that these children are doing is extremely dangerous, not to mention hazardous to their health.
The leverage of companies involved
Corporations have the responsibility to do their due diligence in identifying human and child rights violations in their supply chain. Therefore, TDH has been raising awareness among organisations and governments, about child labour in the mica mines since 2016, in an effort to bring about change.
During the mica stakeholder event, organisations expressed their willingness to fight child labour and the importance of working together. Working together will ensure one group is not bearing the weight of finding solutions to such a complex issue, but rather, it is a collective effort. The joint programme of TDH, Kuncai and Philips and the Responsible Mica Initiative (RMI) were seen as good examples of this process.
The Responsible Mica Initiative
The RMI was initiated after the publication of the TDH Mica Report in 2016 and build on existing initiatives from among others the cosmetic industry, with the primary goal of having a responsible Indian mica supply chain within five years. Corporates and NGOs are working side-by-side on issues like traceability, community empowerment and changing relevant government regulations and in particular on legalising the mining activity. TDH is secretary on the RMI Board.
A growing network
The day concluded with the majority of the people in the room making a promise to spread the word and get other organisations involved to stop child labour in the Indian mica industry. During the course of the day, existing partnerships were renewed and new connections were made - strengthening the network of committed organisations working towards a responsible, child labour free Indian mica industry.
TDH programme to fight child labour
TDH has been working in the Indian mica belt since 2016. As a result 650 children stopped working in the mica industry and are attending school. This is the result of a holistic approach. Terre des Hommes raises awareness among children about their rights, options and opportunities to improve their situation in the villages through the available (government) programs and empowers them to use these options. TDH raises awareness among parents about the risks of child labour. Terre des Hommes works with companies to improve traceability in their supply chains to be able to perform proper due diligence. TDH works with the government to improve the quality and availability of educational facilities and access to governmental schemes.