EXPLOITATION OR SURVIVAL: PERU’S CHILDREN WORKING THE STREETS

Handing over my hard-earned Sol, just to take a picture, I realized I was contributing to the exploitation of young children.   Mothers, their children and baby llamas are dressed in brightly colored traditional Peruvian costumes, standing on the street corners of Peru waiting for a tourist to provide them with their next meal.  Sometimes they wait all day, keeping their children out of school to provide for their family.  As a single mother myself, wouldn’t I do whatever is necessary to provide for my child given no other option? How different is this from the United States homeless, begging on the street corners for their next meal or alcohol consumption?  

In true Peruvian tradition, generations of children have been thrust into child labor while their government has turned its head. Some Peruvian children are forced to work dangerous occupations like mining, sexual exploitation, and unsafe farming conditions.  Just to name a few examples of unfair child labor.   The laws that are in effect today to counter child labor in Peru are often ignored, creating uneducated children who will follow in their family’s footsteps. Generally known, over one-third of the Peruvian adults are below poverty level and over one-third of Peruvian children are forced to work daily; missing necessary schooling and future education to help alleviate them from this sad situation.  The exact statistics are not known because of vast expanse of Peru’s Amazon rain forest where children and people remain under the radar from governmental statistics.

What is the answer to turn these unfair working conditions of young children around?  If we don’t hand out money on the street corners to Peruvian mothers with their children and small llamas how will they provide for their children?  Will their children spend the night hungry, because their government doesn’t have the provisions necessary to support them?  In the United States there are some governmental programs in place to support the non-working, disabled, down on their luck or uneducated person. Still in the United States if we didn’t hand that person begging on the street corner whatever change we have in our pocket, would they be forced to find some other way to support themselves? Would the same thing happen in Peru if tourists stopped giving out Sol or whatever coin was in our pocket for that picture?

Visiting Cusco in Peru, being caught up in the moment, I dug deep into my pocket and handed the brightly colored costumed Peruvian Mother whatever Sol I had.  Her sad eyes and wrinkled smile thanked me. 

*Please feel free to leave comments below on your thoughts and concerns. Thanks for reading.

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