One of the most irritating things on Lombok were the children wandering around the whole day selling bracelets. At the beach, in town, even in the restaurant children approached us trying to sell bracelets.
First reaction: I feel disturbed. Weather I am sunbathing at the beach or sitting in a restaurant I don’t like to be disturbed. Plus I don’t like the feeling of being a stupid lazy tourist who needs to be served everything without moving or walking or asking – but this is exactly how I feel when I am approached everywhere.
Second reaction: There is no need to try to sell bracelets to me – there are plenty of shops around. In case I want to buy something I can go there!
Third reaction (and probably the only important one): Hey, these are children! Under no circumstances I should buy anything from them because this encourages their parents to send them!
This is child labor in it’s simplest form! These children should go to school. Children want to learn new things. Selling bracelets everyday is boring and doesn’t meet their needs! Children should have time to play, to be with other children, to have fun. Wandering around in the heat of the day at the beach and disturbing tourists while they are eating is not what a child should do, not at all!
The youngest child I’ve met was about 4 years old! She reminded me of my niece in Germany; a cute little girl. She seemed to be tired and bored. She took a break at our table. She realized soon that we wouldn’t buy anything but she decided to stay a while and played with the ketchup bottles on our table. She stapled them and tried to keep the balance. It made me smile and it broke my heart. This minute was probably the only minute she could be a child. She couldn’t speak much English but the few sentences necessary to sell a bracelet. She probably experienced a lot of rejection from tourists who are disturbed by her. She probably will hate tourists when she gets older because they are the reason she had to work so hard at a very young age. I saw the parents picking their children up late at night in town. The children were always the same, the ones at the beach and the ones in town! They were around the whole day…
So please: Think before you buy! Your brain should not be on holiday.
At home we don’t support stores selling things made by children. And on holiday? What is the reason you buy a bracelet from a child? There are shops around. Don’t buy anything from children – not because you feel sorry for them nor because they are cute! Buying something from them is a direct encouragement to the parents to send them to work!
Be friendly to the children but make clear that you don’t buy anything. Tell them that you do not buy anything from children! Hopefully they will tell their parents. When many, many tourists say the same the local people will learn. If there is a chance that the child labor will stop then only because tourists don’t buy from children. It is all about the money in these countries. The locals try to make money in every possible way. If no one (no one!) would buy bracelets from children the parents would not send them! They only do it because it is a regular income for them. If anyone can stop it it’s us!