There are 150 million children in the world working instead of going to school and living a life of freedom. Of that number, 70 million children work in what we call the worst forms of child labor-hazardous child labor that compromises the health, safety, and basic human dignity of a child.
Beneath the Barcode is a documentary photo exhibit intended to raise our attention to the impact of our economic choices on children. The exhibit examines very particular sectors of child labor found in poorer parts of the world and across the United States. The show is a chance to examine how children factor into the production, transport, manufacturing, refining and distribution of all the things we eat, buy and use. You’ll see photographs from the carpet sector and of the mining of conflict minerals. There are scenes taking place everywhere, from dumpsites in Indonesia, to commercial farms in Texas.
Hopes and dreams are not visible on a barcode. The price the scanner reads when you check out your shopping does not include the childhoods lost by the 150 million children who labor to produce the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the electronics we buy. A barcode can’t calibrate the inequality depriving these children of the basics for a decent life; food, medical care, shelter, education, personal safety and dignity.
Beneath the Barcode is a glimpse into the lives of child laborers harvesting crops in American fields soaked with pesticides, children around the world breathing dust in mines, disappearing into sinkholes at dump sites, chained to carpet looms or trafficked to work in the sex trade, street children living hand to mouth and young girls who aren't allowed to go to school. The faces in Beneath the Barcode are a testament to the resilience and beauty of children. Each child is singular, every child matters.
There is more here than global supply chains and the economics of child slavery. This is a snapshot of how we treat children in the 21st century. The children Beneath the Barcode are not numbers or transactions at a check out line. The choices we make as consumers can save their lives, their childhoods, change government policies and reflect our collective morality and ethics. The Action Kit for Beneath the Barcode provides the tools and information you need to get started as an advocate for children.