“There are an estimated 246 million child laborers (about 1 out of every 6 children in the world). Estimates of the number of child slaves and bonded child laborers in India alone amount to 60 million and millions more are suffering in South and South-East”, Ms Tomita said.  Many children in Asia are kidnapped or otherwise trapped in servitude, where they work in factories and workshops for no pay and receive constant beatings.

Ms Tomita is the Campaigns Coordinator with the International Secretariat of the Global March Against Child Labor, an international alliance of NGOs, trade unions, teachers and organizations working with the exploited children.

In most of these sweatshops, according to Toko, they are forced to eat, sleep and work in the same stuffy, overcrowded room.  They are often forced to work in strict silence from 6 am to midnight.  They were mercilessly flogged for breaking the rules.

“They have been burned, branded with red hot brands, starved, whipped, chained up, raped and kept locked in cupboards for days on end”, she added.

“Most sweatshops have windows and doors barred to prevent escape.  It is often guarded by thugs armed with cudgels and, occasionally, with guard dogs”, she said.

“These children are robbed of their childhood because they have to toil up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week”, Ms Tomita added.

In Africa more than 200,000 children are sold each year into slavery, principally for seasonal work such as harvesting cocoa (for chocolate) and other cash crops.

The trade involves most states in sub-Saharan West Africa. In the north-western Nigerian state of Sokoto, children are sold for between $500 and $1,000. The average price however is much lower ranging from $14 to $140, depending on the employment which the child is destined for. In the Ivory Coast and some other parts of western Africa, plantation owners pay slavers $70 a child, while mine owners pay about $105. The countries, from which the most children are smuggled, according to Toko, are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali, Nigeria and Togo.

On 10-16 May 2004, the first Children’s World Congress on Child Labor will be held on Florence, Italy, inviting over 500 former child laborers and child activists to discuss their own solutions to the problem of child labor and slavery.  “It is important for the politicians and world leaders to listen to the voices of children.  It is equally important for young people around the world to learn to stand up for their own rights.  The Congress will provide both these opportunities,” said Toko. .


Toko Tomita is the Campaigns Coordinator with the International Secretariat of the Global March Against Child Labor based in New Delhi in India.

Toko is 26 years old.  She was born in Japan and educated at a boarding school in Switzerland before attending Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, USA. After graduating, Toko pursued her passion to relieve the suffering of children in slavery by traveling to India to volunteer with the Global March Against Child labor, where she is responsible for coordinating its international campaigns to free children from bondage.







  2003 by the Anti-Slavery Society. The text on any page may be reproduced provided that the source is acknowledged.  This does not apply to photos.