Kamala Rokaya, 12, is busy in Sallaghari Bhaktapur to carry bricks to a chimney at a brick kiln. Hired by a local brick kiln owner, Rokaya is paid Rs.1500.00 a month. Sleeping in a small hut with a height of three feet, length five feet and width four feet, her chorus begins early in the morning and ends at late night.
As Nepal’s labor unions are celebrating the International Labor Day, children like Rokaya have no option other than to carry bundles of raw bricks to the kilns. Valley’s brick kilns are not only exploiting the child labor but they are also the main sources of air pollution.
Along with exploitation of children, the black smoke puffed by the chimney is polluting the air of residential areas of Nalinchowk and Bhaktapur city. However, nobody seems to have the time to raise the devastation caused by brick kilns.
Although brick kilns are sources of air pollution and child exploitation, only a few raise issue with them. With the growing pollution and exploitation of child labor, Brick Clean Network, a network created by a group of social workers, environmentalists, child rights, and animal rights advocates working in the brick factories in Kathmandu valley, kicked off its consumer campaign to promote clean and green bricks. The group has already organized a public event to raise the awareness.
Concerned about the plight of thousands of girls like Rokaya who work as a bonded labor, Rendch American artists Karl Knapp, known for his involvement in the Divinity of the common life and Planet Nepal Project conducted a visual performance called Every Brick has a story.
With the annual transaction of over Rs.10 billion, the brick kiln owners have a strong lobby, even the government and political leaders are afraid to take up the issue. The laborers working at the big factories called a week long stir, but there no trade union raised the issue of child labor in brick kilns.
“Our aim is to end all kinds of violation of rights as well as make the valley’s air pollution free,” said Usha Manandhar, convener of campaign. “We will urge all to use the brick which is clean from child labor and pollution.”
At a time when brick kilns engaging children and violating child rights to animal rights and air pollution, the effort launched by Brick Clean Network is timely. The challenge ahead is how to convince the policymakers and brick users.