Child-Friendly Villages

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The last bit of research I did into the cosmetics industry was in regards to companies’ involvement in the perpetuation of child slavery in order to mine mica for eyeshadow products. During this research, I uncovered that major industry leaders, such as L’oreal and Estée Lauder, are involved in an initiative called “Child-friendly villages” to break the cycle of child slavery in the developing world. As a Social Entrepreneurship major here in college, I was interested in doing more research into this initiative to understand how it’s set up, and to see if it actually is producing the desired results.

There is an article published back in 2008 in the India Times about these villages, which indicates that these villages have been around for a substantial amount of time, at least 6 years before the cosmetics industry decided to get involved. This initiative appears to operate on both a national and a community level basis, which helps to significantly increase accountability and willingness to participate in the desired behavioral changes. Often times with social initiatives, especially those lead by NGO’s from developed countries, individuals will come in head-strong and ready to enact change, but they do nothing to involve the members of the communities actually affected by the problem at hand. This only serves to perpetuate the problem even more because the local populations are not trained or educated on how to fix the issues at hand.

With these child-friendly villages, members of the communities affected are elected to a represent their communities on a national board. By doing so, each representative is able to present the story of their village and express their needs in order to get unique solutions, rather than trying to have and NGO implement a “one size fits all” approach. The individuals on this national board then serve as the heads of a smaller community-based group that works to ensure the programs and solutions are being implemented correctly, and that the families within their villages are not working against their cause. By keeping everything community-based, it makes the individuals in the villages more likely to work in favor of the new initiatives rather than against them because the changes are being mandated by individuals in their communities, and most likely these head individuals have been affected by issues such as child slavery.

As mentioned in the last research post I did, the main purpose behind these child-friendly village initiatives is to get the children out of harm and into the education system. Often times the children are forced into slavery because of the conditions of their home-life, and usually due to lack of education. If their parents were not educated, there is a lesser chance of the children being educated because no value is placed on the importance of an education and the power it has to break cyclical poverty. Many of the children who are representatives in their communities for these initiatives from the national board  have developed dreams of becoming teachers, lawyers, and doctors as a result of the

Many of the children who are representatives in their communities for these initiatives from the national board have developed dreams of becoming teachers, lawyers, and doctors as a result of the empowerment they’re given through education and through helping their villages improve their future by forcing families to get their children into the school system. Doing so also placed pressure on the other organizations to help increase the education system in these areas in order to keep children out of the cycle of poverty and slavery. In the India Times article, it states that

In the India Times article, it states that in the years since this program was established, 238 villages had converted to the status of child-friendly, while 43 were in the conversion process. One village head was able to convince 48 families to enroll their children in the education system within one month of being appointed to represent his village on the national board. To date, over 100,000 children have been rescued from child slavery as a result of the initiatives of NGO’s and the national board, and that number is sure to rise with the increased involvement of large multi-national companies such as those involved in the cosmetics industry.

Obviously, these villages have been established from a good amount of time, and have clearly proved effective enough, so vouching support for them is a strong business move by those large cosmetics corporations. It’s nice to see that many organizations are placing a great emphasis on sustainability within their supply chains, but as a social entrepreneurship major, I can only help but to wish that these efforts were more preemptive. It seems that these corporations are attaching their name to something that has proven to be effective rather and that will look like good PR, rather than looking to attack this issue earlier, assuming they knew about it at all before 2014. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that these organizations are taking a stand at all, but I’m coming at this from a viewpoint of risk-taking attacking an issue head on through new and innovative solutions rather than tacking your name onto an already existing solution. Nonetheless, any effort to increase global sustainability is a big win for all parties involved, and I can’t wait to see if these corporations continue with increased transparency on their involvement and efforts so that we as consumers can feel informed about the progress being made on these issues.

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