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Did a Child Pick Your Strawberries?

Meet Luz, a 9-year-old American who worked 13-hour days in the fields, skipping school and poisoned by pesticides. Zama Coursen-Neff on the shameful fate of hundreds of thousands of kids.

BS Top - Coursen-Neff Child Farm Workers

“Luz” was 9 when she began working in the fields. Her employer paid her not by the hour, but according to how much fruit she picked. On many days, she would not even stop and rest. “We keep on going because if we were to sit down and take a break we’d make even less,” she told me during a Human Rights Watch investigation. Even so, Luz earned well below minimum wage.

By the time she was a teenager, Luz was often working 13-hour days, when she wasn’t in school. Her employer gave her no choice about hours. “No one can leave. They block the exits and say everyone has to help out.” She fell behind in school and said most of her friends had dropped out. She was often sick from exposure to pesticides. “You could see it all around, and you were breathing it. … My stomach was always heaving. Every single day.”

The conditions Luz describes are typical of child laborers I have interviewed in India, El Salvador, Indonesia, and other poor countries around the world. Luz, however, now 18, works in the United States.

For hundreds of thousands of child farm workers, the U.S. might as well be a developing country. These children aren’t working on their families’ farms. They work for hire, hoeing cotton and sorghum in scorching heat, cutting collard greens and kale with sharp knives, and stooping for hours picking zucchini and cucumbers. Luz began picking strawberries in Florida, then started migrating in the summers to Michigan to pick blueberries. Like Luz’s friends, at least 45 percent of child farm workers never finish high school. Without an education, they face a lifetime of back-breaking work and poverty-level wages. And while most of these children, shockingly, are in the United States legally, those who are undocumented are especially vulnerable to exploitation from employers who know they won’t complain.

Over the last year, I have interviewed dozens of children who did farm work in 14 states across the country. Most began working full-time at age 11 or 12 on days they weren’t in school—and some on days when they should have been. They said that 10-hour days were typical, and during peak harvest season, they sometimes worked 14 hours or more. Some told me that at the end of the day, they were so exhausted they could barely change out of their clothes before falling asleep.

Shockingly, these conditions are perfectly legal under U.S. law, which allows children to work on farms at far younger ages, for far longer hours, and under more hazardous conditions than in other jobs. American teenagers have to be at least 14 to get even a cashier’s job at McDonald’s, where on a school day they are only allowed to work for three hours. But to pick the food that is served in fast food restaurants, children can work at age 12 for unlimited hours, day or night—as long as they don’t work during school hours. Even that rule often goes unenforced.

These disparities in the law are even more disturbing considering that agriculture is one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. Working with sharp tools and heavy machinery, exposed to dangerous pesticides, climbing up tall ladders, lugging heavy buckets and sacks, children get hurt and sometimes they die. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the risk of fatal injuries for farm workers ages 15 to 17 is 4.4 times that of other young workers.

Despite the risks and grueling work, many child farm workers feel compelled to help their parents pay the bills. According to the most recent data, the average adult crop worker makes less than $13,000 a year, leaving many farm worker families desperately poor. Better enforcement of minimum-wage laws would reduce the pressure many farm workers feel to take their children into the fields. But the fact that exploitative child labor in agriculture is legal also presents it as a legitimate choice for parents, children, and employers. Some parents later regret their decision when they see its toll on their children’s health and education. In Texas, one mother said to me, “I tell my daughter, ‘I’m so sorry I stole your childhood from you.’”

The United States’ failure to protect child farm workers not only puts children at risk, but is deeply hypocritical. The U.S. spends over $25 million every year—more than all other countries combined—to eliminate child labor in other countries, yet it tolerates exploitative child labor in its own backyard.

For over a decade, members of Congress have repeatedly introduced legislation to update U.S. laws and eliminate the dangerous double standard that puts child farm workers’ health, safety, and education in jeopardy. Such a bill is pending now. But child farm workers like Luz have no powerful lobbyists, and their concerns are not considered politically pressing.

As the new growing season starts, children like Luz are already leaving school to pick lettuce, spinach, asparagus, and other crops. Without action in Washington, their futures will not be much better than those of children toiling in the developing world.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Home & Family | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pregnancy Discharge

In early pregnancy, discharge is quite normal. In fact some women notice this discharge before they even know they are pregnant and mistakenly believe it to be a yeast infection. Vaginal discharge is one of the early symptoms that you are pregnant even before it is possible for the pregnancy to show up in a blood or urine test or in a home pregnancy kit.

It is quite normal for increased hormonal activity to lead to an increase in normal vaginal emissions. Clear or whitish mucous based discharge known as Leukorrhea, which is non irritant and mild smelling, can increase substantially while pregnant. Panty liners can be used to control these increased emissions, but tampons and douching are not advised as they can cause problems.

Sexually transmitted diseases are one of the most common causes of discharges through the vagina during pregnancy. If left untreated, sexually transmitted diseases can result in serious conditions including, but not limited to, the following examples; fetus blindness, low birth weight, and so on. You want to ensure that you are not part of those women who out of embarrassment keep this condition a secret from their doctors, midwives or health care providers.

Leucorrhea is a runny whitish fluid, which is odorless or mild-smelling. You probably noticed it, from time to time, in your underwear before you were pregnant. Now, if you’re seeing more, it’s partly because of increased estrogen production and increased blood circulation in the vaginal area. This vaginal discharge is your body’s way of flushing out bacteria, and it’s is made up, in part, of secretions from the cervix and vagina.

Pregnant women who notice yellow discharges from their vaginas may suffer from Chlamydia. Chlamydia is an STD (sexually transmitted disease) that is commonly responsible for yellow vaginal discharges. It is a very serious condition and should be attended to immediately.

An inbalance in organisms in your vagina is the most common cause of Bacterial Vaginosis. If you experience Bacterial Vaginosis, you will most probably suffer from vaginal irritations, vaginal discharges with a strong odor and a yellowish, or sometimes, greenish color.

Every women do not experience vaginal discharge as early pregnancy sign. So if you do not notice the discharge that does not mean that you are not pregnant. A woman could be pregnant and do not have this earliest possible sign of pregnancy. The sure way to determine pregnancy is the laboratory test.

As long as the vaginal discharge you are experiencing has no odor, and is not accompanied by burning or itching, it may be one of the first signs of early pregnancy. If the vaginal discharge you are experiencing is foul smelling and itchy, you should see your gynecologist immediately. Your doctor will need to examine you because you could have a viral or bacterial infection or a sexually transmitted disease that must be treated.

If for some reason, a pregnant woman’s white vaginal discharge produces other symptoms, their physician should be consulted. Some women experience swelling of the vaginal area with this discharge. And it is also sometimes joined by the sensation of itching and burning. In these cases, a pregnant woman needs not only medical help, but a diagnosis for her condition.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Home & Family | , , | Leave a comment

Synthetic Grass – A Wonderful Instant Green Solution

Recently, use of synthetic grass has grown in architectural features while planning urban landscapes. The reason seems to be the regular maintenance requirement, cost and complexities of growing natural grass. Natural grass requires time,maintenance, and expenses to maintain it. Besides availability of sufficient water resources, quality of soil and manure are among other essentials.

If it is going to be used for sports purposes, you need a very large area of green grass growth and this will be quite prone to damage. Once damaged, it gets very difficult to restore the patches of grass in damaged areas, making it quite odd to look at. If it is a common sports ground or area, than activities will continue incessantly, and you do not get enough time to let the grass grow.

In similar circumstances like golf greens, tennis courts, outdoor landscapes, and residential or commercial architecture, synthetic grass comes in handy. It is easy to beautify the outdoor / indoor shows held during Horticulture Week, flower shows, and any other exhibition or activity.

Synthetic grass possesses all the features, elegance and sophistication of natural grass. You can freely use water on them, wash them or sprinkle them the way you do to natural grass. Synthetic grass comes with proper water draining provisions, so even storm water on its surface is not a restriction. No matter where you are installing it, sports lounges, tennis courts, golf grounds, outdoor lawns or somewhere else, synthetic grass are easy to grow and easier to maintain. The wonderful fact about them is that no one would know that they are synthetic grass, if you do not tell them so. Just let them wonder how you could grow it overnight!

There is no length restriction either. Synthetic grass can be spread to any length and width of area without fearing any weather. Laying synthetic grass turf is much less time and effort-consuming than anything else. Forget about sowing and repetitive mowing. Synthetic grass spares you from all those troubles. It requires very little maintenance and creates the perfect look for homes, offices, gardens and outdoor areas. It’s like the instant green solution, anytime, anywhere.

So be it a landscaping requirement, or restoring green areas around your school, garden or home or office, synthetic grass can save you time and money. Whether you want to prepare your sports ground, soccer, hockey, cricket, golf or tennis court at a short notice, just order synthetic grass from your nearest vendor and get those fields looking green. Generally, all synthetic grass suppliers provide installation services on demand. Check their charges first, or you can do it yourself with the help of accompanying user guide.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Home & Family | , , , , | Leave a comment