Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
Campaign Against Forced and Exploitative Child Labor

One School at a Time

‘We are glad that people in many places have started knowing our plight and are working to help us. Surely one day child servitude will be a thing of the past.’

Ram Kumar, 9-year old freed bonded laborer

The Problem: In 1972, the International Labor Office (ILO) estimated that there were 150 million children working worldwide. By 1997 that estimate had grown to 250 million. Based on the number of children who do not attend school and who do not complete a primary school education, the number of working children may be as high as 500 million. In some nations, they are found on every corner selling goods, begging, scavenging garbage, or working in shops and factories.

  • For hundreds of millions of children, forced and exploitative labor is an abuse of basic human rights.
  • A large but unknown number of children are held as bonded or slave laborers or are working in conditions that are clearly harmful to their growth and development.
  • The global community is doing too little to ameliorate this problem.
  • Child labor is closely linked to women’s rights and women’s level of education.
  • The availability of good schools, books, and food would go a long way to help many children.

International law provides a clear and accepted consensus on the nature and definition of child labor. The ILO has adopted many international conventions on child labor. The most recent of these, the ILO Minimum Age Convention of 1973, sets a minimum age of employment at 14. The rights of children to an education and freedom from exploitation are also clearly stated in the Convention on the Rights of Children (the Children’s Convention) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989. The Children’s Convention is the most widely ratified international instrument. Only the United States and Somalia have yet to ratify it.

The Solution: In response to the overwhelming number of children who cannot sustain their basic needs and have no opportunity to obtain an education, a volunteer committee of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights will be building and funding the operation of a school. Requests will be made to find an operating partner in the Kathmandu valley of Nepal. A school will be built for brick workers less than 16 years of age. All students will receive at least one free meal each school day. Collaborating agencies will be asked to try to develop a source of independent funding within five years of when the school first opens its doors. Other schools will be built as resources permit.

Legal assistance will be provided for those being held in bonded labor. Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights will also be working with legal assistance organizations in south India to help free bonded and slave workers.

Why Nepal? As of 1995, the average life expectancy in Nepal was 55 years, adult literacy was 41 percent for males and 14 percent for females, and only 52 percent of children completed a primary school education. These statistics are some of the worst in the world! Surrounding Kathmandu are dozens of brick factories where children make and carry thousands of bricks each day. Not only is the work arduous, the children are at significant risk of injury from falling bricks and respiratory illness from dusts.

Why Bonded Labor? An estimated 15 million children work as bonded laborers in India. Most of these children were put into bondage for a small sum of money—usually less than US$35. The number of years a children must work to pay off the debt is undetermined, and after years of toil the debt has often grown by orders of magnitude.

How You Can Help: A volunteer committee of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights is in the process of raising funds to build a school and provide legal assistance as needed.  Donations are needed and all donated funds will be used for program development. Especially important at this time is to find church and school groups that will commit to ongoing funding for a specified period of time.

Fly to Nepal with a friend for $10!!  Northwest Airlines has generously donated 2 round-trip tickets from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Kathmandu to be given away on December 28, 1999, 5:30 pm, in the atrium at 111 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN  55401.  Raffle tickets for this drawing are currently being sold through December 23, 1999 for $10/ticket.  All proceeds support the One School at a Time Campaign to provide an alternative to child labor in Sankhu, Nepal.  To purchase or sell tickets, or for more information, please call 612-713-8480.

Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights: Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights is a Minneapolis-based international human rights organization. With over 1,250 members and 400 active volunteers, Minnesota Advocates is the largest Midwest non-governmental organization engaged in protecting and promoting human rights of individuals and communities locally, nationally, and internationally.

Who to Contact:


Children’s Program
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights
310 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 1000
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1012
Telephone: (612) 341 -3302
Fax: (612) 341-2971
E-mail: [email protected]

David L. Parker, M.D., M.P.H.
Minnesota Department of Health
717 Delaware SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Telephone: (612) 623-5220

All contributions are tax deductible. Please make checks payable to Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights and indicate that the contribution is for the Campaign Against Forced and Exploitative Child Labor.

For more information, contact Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights,
310 Fourth Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55415-1012.
Tel: 612-341-3302, Fax: 612-341-2971, E-mail:
[email protected]

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