Are we responsible for child labour? A bilingual Geography unit about fair trade”

The class 7E of the Hegau-Gymnasium Singen did a bilingual project in the Geography lessons for several weeks. On Wednesday, the 25th of November 2009, in this context we (class 7E) were visited by Mrs Hertlein, a staff member of XertifiX Freiburg. XertifiX is a fair-trade organization that produces labels for natural stones from India of the same name. Mrs Hertlein, who is working for XertifiX for two years, told us very much about child labour in Indian quarries and the XertifiX label. She explained her work and how the XertifiX-label operates. First of all the German or any other European trader, who does not want to buy stones from India produced with child labour, signs a treaty with XertifiX. Like this they guarantee that they only do business with Indian stone traders who accept the inspections of the XertifiX workers who check the working conditions of the workers and whether there are children in the quarries or not. She also told us that there are still a lot of quarries that do not have the label yet, because it is difficult to trade with the quarry owners. They don’t want that the XertifiX organization controls their quarries. But many European traders only want stones produced without child labour. That is why more and more quarry owners in India have to accept the inspections.

The problem about Indian quarry workers is that many children and their whole families have to work under very bad conditions. They have to work for very long hours, they only earn about 1€ a day, they don’t wear protective clothing (only flip-flops) and they have no proper food. The children cannot go to school and they have no other future but to work in the quarry for their whole life. Mrs Hertlein showed us the tools that the children have to work with – like a hammer and a chisel – and also explained that many people have injuries in these quarries because of the hard work with heavy tools or because of explosions, but there are no doctors to help them or hospitals to go to. XertifiX wants to make the living conditions for these people better and we, class 7E, are thinking about how we could help them, too. We will start a campaign for XertifiX and the children in Indian quarries.

Tim Bittlingmaier, Noah Martens, Jeannine Steppacher and Carolin Rieger. (Teacher: Sarah Sutter)