Nepal: Child Labor

Susmita, 13, her skin and face covered with dust, stacks bricks before loading them onto her back.

Susmita, 13, her skin and face covered with dust, stacks bricks before loading them onto her back.


Brick Factory, Nepal

Susmita carries a heavy load of bricks to a waiting truck.



Lalu, 16, closes his eyes as he stacks bricks on his head.

Lalu, 16, closes his eyes to protect against the dust as he stacks bricks on his head.


Lalu, 16, hauls bricks out of the kiln.

Lalu hauls bricks out of the kiln.


Lalu, 16, and other workers load bricks onto a truck.

Lalu and other workers load bricks onto a truck.

The object of employing children is not to train them,
but to get high profits from their work.

– Lewis Hine, 1908


7 days per week…

12 hours per day (with a  2  hour break on Saturdays)…

150 times a day… 24 bricks each load.

Susmita lugs almost 50,000 pounds of bricks per week out of the kiln to a waiting truck. At age 13, she earns less than 3 dollars per day while working at one of Nepal’s estimated 750 brick factories. School for her is not an option.

Susmita is only one of the estimated 60 thousand children who work in the brick kilns. They live in temporary shelters of stacked brick and tin roofs. Their floor is damp clay. Sanitation is poor. Their bathroom an open field. Healthcare is lacking. Schooling of any type is rare. Nepalese law forbids children to work in the dangerous environs of the brick industry, but the law is not enforced.

Lalu, 16, another young worker, was sent to Nepal by his family in India so that he could earn money for his family. “We don’t have any work at home, so I am sent here to work for six months.” After the brick making season is over he will return to India for the harvest.

Children in Nepal are expected to contribute to their families economic needs, but this often goes beyond simple household chores to the risks and dangers of heavy labor in industries such as brick making, carpet weaving, stone quarries, and mines.

As the sun begins to set, Susmita hauls her last bricks for the day out of the kiln. Her dirt encrusted fingers clasp the small scrap of paper with tiny marks that represent her toil for the day…over 3,000 bricks…less than 3 dollars earned.


CALL TO ACTION; If you’d like to learn more about CICM and the help they provide the brick makers, contact Central India Christian Mission.

All photographs ©Copyright Gary S. Chapman

(Nikon D4, 70-200mm f2.8 @140mm, 1/2500 sec, f2.8, ISO 250)
(Nikon D4, 70-200mm f2.8 @200mm, 1/3200 sec, f2.8, ISO 250)
(Nikon D4, 70-200mm f2.8 @98mm, 1/5000 sec, f2.8, ISO 250)
(Nikon D4, 24mm f1.4, 1/3200 sec, f2, ISO 100)
(Nikon D4, 24mm f1.4, 1/2000 sec, f2, ISO 100)


6 thoughts

  1. Beautiful yet heart-wrenching photos, Gary. How long did you stay with the kids?

    I watched a documentary once about men and women working in those kilns and their conditions are similarly atrocious ! Some of the women didn’t even get paid at all after long days carrying those heavy loads in the scorching heat, their “salary” if you can call it that was to be given a house and food rations, I think. I don’t call that work – but slavery.

    An organisation whose name I unfortunately can’t remember was trying to help the women stand up for their rights and negotiate their own wages – that’s pretty much the best they could do for these women (for now anyway, or as a place to start) as stopping this work, as hard and dangerous as it is, is not an option for a lot of them. They were that poor and dependent on it. Have you by chance come across that doc or org?

    It is sickening to see vulnerable people – both adults and children – being exploited like this instead of being cared for as they deserve.


  2. Thanks for reading and responding. I was only with the kids for a few hours, but the workers for CICM live in the same village and are there helping these children and others. It is a great org doing a very good work. Thanks again for responding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *