Artists bring child labor to the streets of New York

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Children’s faces appear locked in the jaws of a sinister factory robot or peering warily behind New York’s landmarks in an interactive street art campaign launched this week to raise awareness of the child trafficking and child labor.

Nine striking pieces commissioned by Street Art for Mankind (SAM) – an art movement fighting against child trafficking – can be seen on dozens of billboards across New York.

“Street art is intergenerational, intercultural. It really appeals to everyone,” said Audrey Decker, co-founder of the association, which has partnered with the United Nations International Labor Organization and other groups for the #freechildren campaign.

“It’s a great tool to raise awareness about these issues because child labor and child trafficking are issues that people don’t necessarily want to hear about,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a briefing. video call.

More than 150 million children are engaged in child labor worldwide, around half of whom perform hazardous work in sectors such as construction, agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

The United Nations said last month that urgent action was needed to reach the goal of ending child labor by 2025, warning that COVID-19 could reverse progress towards its fight and declaring 2021 International Year. for the abolition of child labour.

Child trafficking is more common in poorer countries where child labor is prevalent, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Street Art for Mankind has launched several campaigns since its inception in 2015, such as an Art Walk in Manhattan’s Financial District in 2019 featuring freedom murals depicting stories of survivors of child labor and trafficking.

To further engage passers-by, the new campaign includes an augmented reality app that allows users to hear experts explain issues and artists share the stories behind their artwork.

App users also receive suggestions on what they can do to combat child labour.

Indian Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder and American actresses Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino are among well-known personalities supporting the initiative.

Last month, a group of academics criticized the UN’s goal of ending child labor as unachievable and disconnected, and child poverty researcher Alula Pankhurst said efforts to tackle child labor should consider very divergent circumstances.

“(They) need to take into account different local realities and avoid blanket bans that can harm the well-being of children and endanger the survival of their families,” said Pankhurst, who coordinates Young Lives, a global study on the child poverty after 12,000 children over the age of 15.

Victor Ash, one of the artists whose work features in the new campaign, said he hoped to make people think about the issue.

“I don’t know if Mr. Everyone who walks past my painting can do something, but at least they can be aware of what’s going on,” the Copenhagen-based artist said in a video call. .

Reporting by Emeline Wuilbercq @emwuilbercq; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which spans the lives of people around the world struggling to live freely or fairly. To visit

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