On Tuesday, August 23rd, Pulitzer Center Grantees Michael Holtz, Ann Hermes, and Fred de Sam Lazaro joined activists and experts in Boston for an event entitled “Out of Bondage: Ending Child Labor in India and Nepal.” Their talk was co-sponsored by the Mary Baker Eddy Library, where it was held, and The Christian Science Monitor, where Holtz and Hermes are reporters.
For their project, Holtz, Hermes, and de Sam Lazaro travelled to Nepal, where brick kilns are experiencing a surge in business thanks to rebuilding efforts in the wake of a devastating April 2015 earthquake. These kilns’ bricks are vital for the country’s recovery, but the brick-making process often relies on child labor. As explained by Amelia Newcomb, the Monitor’s International News Editor, this topic “represented an opportunity to report on a story that really has been neglected. The Nepal earthquake made headlines when it happened, and stayed in the news for a little while, but it hasn’t gotten much press since. And yet, these issues of child labor, of people without housing, are still very urgent.”
To underscore the urgency of these issues, the event highlighted one of the grantees’ PBS NewsHour reports, where de Sam Lazaro interviewed workers—some as young as 12—who spend long hours shaping, hauling, and firing bricks, for which they are paid one cent each. Holtz, who was also featured in the video, sees a risk of “increases in child labor, increases in bonded labor.”
To avoid that outcome, the panelists made clear that greater awareness will be crucial. None made this case more forcefully than Homraj Acharya, the leader of a group called Better Brick Nepal that partners with kilns to prevent child labor. Speaking over Skype from Nepal, he explained that “Each of the people...who are watching around the world has some responsibility and some way of contributing.” With the United States and other nations pledging a total of $4 billion to recovery efforts, he explained, “they can simply tell their governments, their Congressmen or Senators, ‘Hey, our tax dollars shouldn’t be used to promote exploitative practices around the world.’