Artists make clear youngster labor within the streets of New York

Children’s faces appear to be trapped in the jaws of a sinister factory robot or to peer cautiously behind New York landmarks in an interactive street art campaign launched this week to raise awareness of child trafficking and underage labor.

Nine distinctive pieces commissioned by Street Art for Humanity (SAM) – an artistic movement to fight child trafficking – can be seen on dozens of billboards across New York.

“Street art is cross-generational, cross-cultural. It really attracts everyone,” said Audrey Decker, co-founder of the charity that partnered with the United Nations International Labor Organization and other groups on the #freechildren campaign.

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

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

The United Nations said last month that urgent action was needed to meet the target of ending child labor by 2025. They warned that Covid-19 could reverse advances in the fight against child labor and declared 2021 to be the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor.

Child trafficking is more common in poorer countries where child labor is widespread, according to the UN Bureau on Drugs and Crime.

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

To further motivate passers-by, the new campaign includes an augmented reality application that lets users hear experts explain the problems and artists share the stories behind their artwork.

Users of the app will also receive suggestions on how to take action against child labor.

Indian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, ILO Director General Guy Ryder, and American actresses Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino are some of the prominent figures who support the initiative.

Last month, a group of academics criticized the United Nations’ goal of ending child labor as impractical and non-contact, and child poverty researcher Alula Pankhurst said efforts to combat child labor should take into account very different circumstances.

“(You) need to be aware of different local realities and avoid blanket prohibitions that can adversely affect children’s well-being and jeopardize the survival of their families,” said Pankhurst, who coordinates Young Lives, a global study of child poverty after 12,000 children over 15 Years.

Victor Ash, one of the artists whose work is included in the new campaign, said he hoped to get people to think about the topic.

“I don’t know if Mr Anyone who comes by in front of my painting can do anything, but at least he can know what is happening,” the Copenhagen-based artist said on a video call.

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This story was published by a wire agency feed with no changes to the text.

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