100 Million Germany activists take to the streets to demand an end to child labour in German supply chains, with Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi taking demands to Ministers.
The fight to end child labour in international supply chains took a step forward in Germany at the end of November. Starting with hundreds of youth activists from all over Germany marching the streets of Berlin, and culminating in support from politicians and the German Development Ministry, a shift in German policy is on the horizon which would see German companies work to ensure that no child labour is used in products sold and distributed in Germany, regardless of where they are made. Nobel Peace Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, showed his support and solidarity for the campaign by joining the march.
It is a scandal that children in many countries around the world are still brutally exploited in quarries and mines. We appeal to German policy to ban the import of products from exploitative child labour.
Vera Isabella Arndt, a German youth activist taking part in the demonstration.
100 Million Germany, supported by Bread for the World and the German Education Union (GEW), organised a day of action on 27 November, including a march across Berlin to the German Parliament, with a rally in front of the Bundestag attended by politicians from a wide cross-section of Germany's political parties. The demonstration intended to build momentum following the recent passing of a parliamentary motion, proposed by the two leading political parties which form the government. The motion proposes a comprehensive approach to ending child labour, reducing poverty, improving social security and education systems, and ensuring that all children worldwide can grow up in a safe and free environment, enjoying quality education and the ability to develop their potential. When a motion is passed in the Bundestag, the government is compelled to respond, bringing the forward the possibility of laws and other measures designed to end child labour.
Youth power to end child labour
The motion reached the Bundestag after a year of active campaigning by youth activists from the 100 Million campaign in Germany. In 2018, a delegation of youth campaigners met with politicians from across five political parties, including the Development Minister Gerhard Müller and Vice-President of the Bundestag Claudia Roth, with all present committing to pushing the agenda to end child labour at the parliamentary level.
Following this initial meeting, youth activists around Germany invited their political representatives to events in their local communities, including screenings of the film on child labour, The Price of Free. These events reinforced the demands of the campaign, and expanded the number of politicians who committed to support moves to end child labour in German supply chains.
At the national level, Minister Müller followed up on his own commitment to the youth activists, by inviting Kailash Satyarthi to join him and representatives from other political parties at a conference on child labour.
The impact of youth activism in Germany
Chanting 'For every child in every nation: FREEDOM SAFETY EDUCATION!', the march through Berlin was a great success, with young people spontaneously joining in as the activists headed towards the Bundestag. At the Bundestag, a rally was held, with Kailash Satyarthi addressing both the youth activists and parliamentarians from five political parties. The campaign demands were handed over, with politicians each underlining their own commitments and pledges to achieving an end to child labour in the supply chain through legislative and policy change.
On 28 November, an event organised by the campaign saw Kailash Satyarthi address the parliamentary committee for Economic Coorperation and Development. The committee, comprised of politicians, watched the trailer for The Price of Free and discussed the issue of child labour, further paving the way for political change.
If a child is employed by a German company in Germany, it is illegal. Why doesn't the law stop the company employing child labour in another country?
Kailash Satyarthi addressing politicians at the Bundestag.
Following the committee meeting, Mr. Satyarthi joined Minister Müller at the German Development Ministry for the conference on child labour. Speaking at the conference alongside Minister Müller, Claudia Roth, representatives from UNICEF, and Mr. Satyarthi, were former child labourers, Katherina from Peru and Jed from the Philippines, who gave their own demands to politicians: an end to exploitative child labour, poverty alleviation measures for families, and the right to quality education.
After these successful events to raise the profile of child labour in the supply chain, 100 Million Germany will be maintaining pressure to ensure the government responds to the parliamentary motion. As Minister Müller stated in his address:
A world without child labour is possible.
We look forward to continuing the work to ensure that we realise this critical vision for the freedom of every child.