This campaign seeks to end the dangerous and illegal employment of children like Tila, pictured below, in seven brick factories near Kathmandu, Nepal. This, we hope, will trigger a larger reform in the brick industry, which employs many thousands of children.
Our Nepali partner CONCERN hopes to place 210 children from the seven factories in school for at least three years. The campaign has already enrolled 50 children in school since June 2015, with help from the Global Fund for Children, and most are thriving. They are profiled below and on the Rescued! tab.
Tila carries bricks from the field to the kiln. She is paid $2.9 for every 1000 bricks.
Some of the 210 children will be enrolled where they live, in the mountainous district of Ramechhap, thus ensuring that they never set foot in a factory. CONCERN may provide some families with goats as an incentive for parents to remain home with their child.
The remaining children will, as usual, accompany their parents to factories in the Kathmandu Valley when the brick season begins. But instead of working, they will be enrolled at one of three government schools. CONCERN will follow up to make sure that they are not turning (“flipping”) bricks before or after school, to the detriment of their education. We will also provide extra tuition in the schools, to help them with homework.
The campaign will work with the factory owners, who have pledged to end all child labor. They will be asked to improve living conditions, which are often appalling and affect the academic performance of children who live in their factories. This will not be easy, but CONCERN has shown the way by funding water tanks, toilets, and day care centers for the infants of working parents.
The final component of the campaign will be advocacy. In Nepal, CONCERN will urge factory owners to stop offering their workers an advance at high rates of interest – a form of bonded labor.
From Washington, AP will reach out to American students and schools and encourage debate about child labor. We will also continue to send Peace Fellows to work at CONCERN and raise funds for individual families. Donations can be made through Global Giving or by clicking at the top right of this page. Thank you! (December 2016)
Asmita is one of 13 children who are going to school in their home village, high in the mountains of Ramechhap, instead of working in the brick kilns as a result of this campaign. In 2015 Asmita made the long journey from Ramechhap to the Kathmandu valley, where she helped her father and oldest brother to make bricks. But this year she has been able to remain in the Panchakanya village school with her mother and siblings. Asmita wants to be a teacher and enjoys learning Nepali. AP is seeking $150 to enable Asmita to remain in school in 2017.
Hari is headmaster of the Panchakanya village school in Ramechhap district, one of four community schools that collaborate with CONCERN. Hari is an enthusiastic supporter of the campaign because it enables 13 children from poor families to attend his school instead of going down to a brick factory with their parents. He works hard at his job and spends two and a half hours a day traveling to school on his horse, Shettri. AP hopes that all 13 children will continue their studies in 2017.
Budhhi Ram and Manisha used to work in bricks. They now attend the Suryodaya school near Kathmandu, with funding provided by the Global Fund for Children. Buddhi Ram lives in a brick factory and is under constant pressure to help his widowed mother by flipping bricks but Manisha has been completely freed from bricks by the campaign. When AP met her in July 2016 she was working in bricks for five hours a day. By November, her family had moved out of the factory. As a result, Manisha’s attendance and grades at school have improved, to the delight of her teachers. AP is seeking $300 to keep Buddhi Ram and Manisha in school in 2017
Puja is one of several children who attend school with funding from the Global Fund for Children but are still under pressure to help their parents work in bricks before and after school. Puja is Dalit and her parents are significantly poorer than other families. This shows in her uniform, which needs mending. Teachers at the Faidoka school, where she studies, say that Puja loves school but struggles to complete her homework, which is common for children who live in a factory. CONCERN is seeking funds to provide extra tuition at the school for Puja and other brick children. AP is seeking $150 to keep Puja in school in 2017.
Sanu met with AP and CONCERN in the tiny jhyauli (dwelling) where he lives with four other family members on the grounds of a brick factory. Sanu attends the Suryodaya school, with funding provided by the Global Fund for Children, but he helps his father by flipping bricks before going to school and sometimes starts as early as 4 am. His teachers say he is smart but that his grades and attendance suffer because of the work. Sanu is a strong argument for sustained education support over 5 years and AP is seeking $150 to cover his schooling next year. But the campaign will also try and raise money to pay for extra tuition at the school and persuade Sanu’s parents to keep him out of bricks altogether.
The little boy pictured on the left was working in the Shiva brick factory in Tulsipor, western Nepal, when The Advocacy Project met him in 2012. He and his older sister described a life of incredible hardship. The family had trekked from their village in the hills to make and carry bricks. They worked 11 hours a day, six days a week over six months, and earned the equivalent of $1.84 for every 1,000 bricks they hauled. They did not get paid for bricks that were ruined by the rain.
These two children could have been describing slavery.
AP has joined a prominent advocate, CONCERN for Children and Environment Nepal (CONCERN), to campaign for an end to child labor in brick factories. Founded in 1993 by Doctor Bijaya Sainju, CONCERN was the first organization to research child labor in stone quarries. It then moved to other sectors that employ children.
CONCERN began working with brick factories in 2011. Using funds from Save the Children (Korea), CONCERN placed child workers in school, provided services in the factories, and opened a dialogue with employers. The program reached over 5,000 working children between 2011 and 2014. Our current campaign follows the same approach.
AP’s interest in child labor in Nepal was sparked by our work in Tulsipor with BASE, a long-time AP partner and Tharu grassroots organization that frees girl domestic workers (known as kamlaris). We also visited the Shiva factory and took this video footage, which shows how dangerous brick work can be for women and children.
2016 Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell seen here in a child-friendly room installed by CONCERN has raised over $2,000 for the campaign.
In 2014 AP sent two Peace Fellows – Katerina Canyon and Gisele Bolton – to support CONCERN’s work with brick children in the Kathmandu valley. The following year, 2015, we launched an appeal for CONCERN which raised around $5,000 and placed 25 children in school. Of this, $1,000 came from our 2015 Peace Fellow Joti Sohi, and $600 was raised by students in Washington. Iain Guest from AP and Joti visited schools in the district of Ramechhap, which exports families to the kilns, and in the Kathmandu valley. Joti produced profiles on all 25 children.
The campaign intensified in 2016. CONCERN identified the seven factories where it will work and in Washington, AP encouraged the Global Fund for Children to invest $5,000 in the program. Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell raised another $2,100 through crowdfunding.
As a result of these efforts, 50 children have been placed in school for at least one year by this campaign. We will continue to seek funding for these 50 families while helping CONCERN to campaign for the complete elimination of child labor from the seven factories.
Night work: KB started to make bricks at 1.30 am and expected to continue until 5 pm. 24,000 children work in 190 factories in the Kathmandu Valley.
Hunched up against the cold and dark, KB slapped mud into the mold and produced a brick with the practiced ease of a veteran. He gave his age as 15 but was probably 13. Both ages would violate Nepali law, which forbids dangerous work by children under sixteen. Later, with the daylight, more young workers arrived to “flip” (turn) and carry bricks to the kilns. They received 320 rupees ($2.9) for every thousand bricks they carried. Back injuries and respiratory problems are common among young and old alike.
Such was the scene that greeted an early morning visit last December by The Advocacy Project and CONCERN to one of the seven brick factories outside Kathmandu that are targeted by this campaign. The seven owners have all made a commitment to abolish child labor, but children are still working in their factories. Why?
The main reason is poverty. Most workers migrate to the factories from distant, mountainous districts like Ramechhap where the soil is thin. Many also lost homes to the earthquake last year. But the owners also add to the problem by sending brokers (known as naike) to offer an advance at high rates of interest. This leaves the family with a debt before its members even start working – a form of debt bondage.
As a result, entire families arrive in the factories when the brick season begins in October under enormous pressure to earn as much as they can from bricks. The pressure increases because they are paid by the number of bricks they produce. This naturally becomes a family affair.
Flipping bricks: Small fingers can get between the rows and turn bricks
Children play an important role because their small fingers can get between the rows and flip the bricks as seen in this video. Children can also step on and around bricks without breaking them. Even infants are sucked into the work because their parents cannot afford day care. Rupesh, 5, told AP in 2015 how he started flipping bricks at the age of three. His mother sheepishly explained that Rupesh liked to play in mud and had to be kept busy while she did a back-breaking 17 hours of work. (Rupesh has been placed in school by this campaign).
Living conditions are atrocious. Families are given a pile of bricks when they arrive and expected to construct a dwelling (known as a jhyauli) that will last for the six months, but many jhyaulis have collapsed during earthquake after-shocks and caused serious injuries. Most toilets in the factories are foul and drinking water is hauled from deep wells, which means more backbreaking work. Cooking, bathing and toilets are usually shared between hundreds of workers and their families. This can lead to sexual abuse against children.
School can rescue children from this nightmare, but school is simply not an option for children like Govindra, 13, who works in the factory to support his three younger siblings. Govindra works to stay alive. Even children who attend school will find it hard to resist being sucked into brick work before they leave for school or when they return home.
Cramped and unhealthy: Six family members live for six months in this brick dwelling or jhyauli
Such cases call into question a pledge by the owners to ban child labor, but Ram Lal Maharjan, a factory manager, said he could not force children like Govindra to stop working. Another owner agreed and when asked said he would never ask families to leave children behind when they migrate down to the factory. “That would be inhumane,” he said without conviction.
Owners hold the key to change. Most have little interest in the welfare of their workers, but even they can see change coming. Nepal’s government, which is led by a Maoist, has imposed a tax on bricks and environmentalists have begun to protest the pollution caused by the chimneys and the vast amount of agricultural soil that is used to make bricks.
As a result CONCERN hopes that the employers may be more inclined to cooperate over child labor. How can they be persuaded? Read the next tab to find out.
Watch our exclusive video of work and life in the brick factories of Kathmandu by clicking on the video tab!
|Bijaya Sainju, CONCERN’s founder and director|
This campaign will place 210 children in school for at least 4 years, and in so doing rescue them from work in the brick factories. This page explains how it will be done. Many of the techniques and approaches have been perfected by CONCERN during six years of hands-on work in the factories and schools.
We will start by targeting seven brick factories in the Kathmandu Valley. Over 2,000 children may be working in these factories and by placing 210 of them in school we hope to show other parents that there can be a better life for their children. A growing number already agree, to judge from surging enrollment at the local schools.
Beneficiaries: We will target all children under the age of sixteen who are exposed to brick work, starting with infants who accompany their parents to work every day. CONCERN has funded several preschool centers in the past and we hope to revive these in the seven factories. We will profile all children who benefit from this campaign (with the permission of their parents) and follow their progress through school. These are people, not statistics.
Prevention: CONCERN will address the poverty that drives families to work in bricks by offering goats to vulnerable families that agree to keep their children in their home village in Ramechhap, instead of taking them down to the factories. CONCERN will also reach out to the middle-men (naikes) who lure poor villagers in Ramechhap to work in the factories with high interest loans.
Model student: Manisha right, has stopped working in the brick factory and is getting good grades at the Suryodaya High School
Education: By placing brick children in school the campaign will respect their right to education while also taking them out of bricks. Some have asked why this will cost money, given that schooling in Nepal is free. The answer is that parents have to cover the cost of an admission fee, exam fees, a uniform, books and school supplies, which amounts to around $140 a year
We will work in four schools: Panchakanya (in Ramechhap district); Faidhoka and Dattatraya (in Bhaktapur); and Suryodaya School in Lalitpur. Our priority for 2017 is to ensure that the 50 children currently in school remain there for this year.
The campaign has already done much good. A monitoring mission by AP and CONCERN in December 2016 met with 15 of the 50 current beneficiaries and found that 12 were no longer working in bricks. Manisha, at the Suroydaya school, had expected to work 5 hours a day in bricks – but here she was full-time in school and her class work was improving. Nabina and Rojina, at the Faidhoka school, had the best grades in their class. They wore their uniforms with pride and beamed as their teachers praised them.
Still, school is not the whole story. These twelve children are lucky to live outside the factories with their parents. But three of the other beneficiaries live in the factories and were still putting in several hours of brick-making with their parents before or after school. They were also living in cramped and unhealthy brick huts which made homework nearly impossible. As a result, the campaign will fund extra tuition at the schools for brick kids who are falling behind. This will not eliminate all of the pressure on the families – but it will enrich the quality of education.
Responsible owner: Hari Khakke, left, has built a dormitory for his workers at the BM factory with encouragement from Prakash Basi of CONCERN
Living conditions: CONCERN has in the past worked through donors like Rotary International and Save the Children (Korea) to introduce water tanks, toilets and health care, but such interventions should come from the owners. At the urging of CONCERN, one owner, Hari Lal from the BM factory, has built a dormitory, day care center and toilets and in the process earned the loyalty of his workers.
Working with owners: Employers hold the key to improvement, as we have seen. When faced with evidence of child labor, they either shrug it off, dispute the numbers or insist that the decision belongs to the families. But they also understand that their reputations will gain from being seen to obey the law and have promised to eliminate child labor completely from their kilns. This must translate into concrete measures to improve living conditions and promote education as an alternative to work. The owners could also meet regularly with parents and support the local schools, for example by paying for lunch. One factory owner is a member of parliament and well placed to take the lead.
Monitoring: The campaign has set clear goals and this will help CONCERN and AP to measure results (which will be summarized on our websites.) Operating in Ramechhap and from Kathmandu, field officers like Sundar Kumal (photo below) will follow up with all of the students and report back to donors. They will be helped by at least one Peace Fellow from AP in the US.
Advocacy: The campaign’s main goal is to persuade families that do not receive education support to place children in school. This is best done through schools, and the three headmasters have all agreed to hold monthly meetings to explain the benefits of education. The campaign may also lobby owners to end the system of early recruitment through the association of brick owners. CONCERN would certainly like to see the official age of a child raised to 18, and more government inspectors into labor conditions.
Checking in: Sundar Kumal (rear) from CONCERN wants to know why Ram is working in bricks
Advancing this ambitious agenda for social change can only be done by working with others and CONCERN will reach out to the government – Ministry of Education, education officers and child welfare boards – and to other NGOs that support innovative approaches like Better Brick Nepal. As the campaign gathers momentum we hope to identify new funding from embassies, international agencies, and foundations.
International outreach: From Washington, AP will promote the campaign at the UN and in American schools, where there is a hunger to learn about the world. This has already generated one inspiring initiative by Grace McGuire, 12, who launched her own website (Bricks2books) in Washington and raised over $500, much of it in pennies. Children can be powerful advocates for other children.
The best advocates for this campaign are, of course, the children themselves. We hope that their stories – and their resolve – come through loud and clear on these pages! We invite your feedback!
The fifty children profiled on these pages would almost certainly have worked in the brick kilns if they had not been enrolled in school by this campaign. Funding was provided through The Advocacy Project (AP) in 2015 and 2016, and through the Global Fund for Children (GFC) in 2016. CONCERN placed the children in school and follows up to ensure that they do not slip back into bricks.
The best solution, clearly, is for children to remain in their village year round instead of going to live with their families in the brick factories. This means that they will never be exposed to bricks, and that their studies will be uninterrupted. The campaign has placed several such children in their local school in Ramechhap district.
Most of the children moved down to the Kathmandu Valley with their families and have been placed in one of three schools near the factories that cooperate with the campaign. In principle, children can also transfer without cost from one school to another.
Once a child is selected CONCERN makes every effort to ensure that he or she remains in school for at least 3-4 years. This is the best guarantee that they will never work in bricks. Unfortunately, some children have only been supported for one year because they moved to a new school or could not be located by CONCERN during follow up.
The profiles below are presented chronologically, and start with children who never leave their homes. We note their age and class at the time of selection. Photos and names are used with the permission of parents or teachers. The profiles were written by Peace Fellows Joti Sohi (2015) and Lauren Purnell (2016).
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Sarita started working in the kilns when she was six before enrolling in the Panchakanya School in Ramechhap district at the age of 9. The campaign has covered the costs of her education since 2015. In addition, CONCERN has given the family some goats. This means that Sarita and mother can remain at home in Ramechhap all the year round, instead of heading to the brick kilns each October. However, her father is closely tied to the world of bricks. Not only does he work in the kilns – he also serves as a broker (naike) and recruits other workers. Back in Ramechhap, Sarita helps her mother by cutting grass for the goats, cleaning and cooking, but this is much safer than the work she used to do in the brick factories. Sarita hopes to become a teacher. She enjoys Nepali but struggles with English. Her older brothers are 19 and 21 and help her study. (Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). The campaign has enabled Sumina to stay home in Ramechhap district and attend the Panchakanya School instead of leaving for the kilns in November, but this has not lightened the load on her parents. They farm during the monsoon season but cannot earn enough from farming to support the family year round. As a result, they have worked in the brick kilns during the dry season for the past three years. Sumina used to go with them, but now she stays home in the village with relatives. Her favorite subject is math, but she struggles with English, as do most students in Ramechhap because of a shortage of good English instructors. The 2016 school year is Sumina’s second year of being sponsored. (Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). The campaign allows Laxmi to remain home in Ramechhap district and attend the Panchakanya School instead of working in bricks. This represents a significant change in her life because her parents have worked in the brick kilns for 22 years and Laxmi also worked in bricks when she was small. Now she only helps with household chores. Laxmi gave a shy but eager smile when she told us that she wants to be a doctor when she grows up and that her favorite subject is science. Thanks to CONCERN, she is much closer to reaching her goal than when she was working in the brick factory. (Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). The campaign has made it possible for Sarita to remain home in Ramechhap and attend the Panchakanya School instead of leaving for the kilns where she started work at the age of six. Sarita now attends school full-time and stays in the village with her mother, while her father works in the kilns in Bhaktapur. Sarita’s favorite subject is math and she hopes to one day become a professor. (Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). The campaign has enabled Bikram to remain home in Ramechhap and attend the Panchakanya School year round. CONCERN has also helped Bikram’s to reduce their dependency on bricks by purchasing goats, which are managed by Bikram’s mother while Bikram goes to school. Bickram’s father, however, remains quite committed to brick work. He leaves the village to work in Bhaktapur during the brick season and would like Bikram to join him. Bikram himself wants to continue studying and would like to become a teacher. His older sister, 15, did not receive the same support and dropped out of school when she was Bikram’s age. (Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015). The campaign covered the cost of Bishal’s education in 2015 and enabled him to remain home in Ramechhap instead of working in the kilns. Bishal does not have strong feelings about bricks, like many of the other sponsored children. He began going to the kilns at the age of 3 and says that he enjoyed making the journey with his parents. At the age of 9 he was enrolled in the Panchakanya village school and while this helps his schooling it also means he is separated from his parents for five months while they work in the factories. Bishal’s favorite subjects in school are science and the Nepali language. He hopes to one day be a teacher. (Joti Sohi)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). The campaign supported Indra’s education at the Panchakanya School in Ramechhap for a year. This was his first year in school and it also took him out of the bricks, where he worked in 2014. Indra remembers the kilns as being a very hard place to work and he told AP that he enjoyed being in Ramechhap. It is unfortunate that the campaign was unable to support Indra for more than a year. (Joti Sohi)
(Supported by AP in 2015). The campaign enabled Sagar to remain home in Ramechhap and attend the Panchakanya School in 2015 instead of leaving for the kilns in November, but unfortunately the support only lasted for a year. Sagar is tall, like his father. He began accompanying his parents to the kilns when he was very young but never actually worked there. Sagar’s favorite subject in school is math, but he does not know what he wants to do when he grows up. (Joti Sohi)
(Supported by AP in 2015). The campaign enabled Pasho to remain home in Ramechhap and attend the Panchakanya School for a year instead of working in bricks. He first experienced bricks at the age of 4 and he remembers the factory as a very difficult place. During the 2015 brick season he stayed with his grandmother and two younger siblings while his parents and two older brothers worked in the kilns in Bhaktapur. Pasho’s favorite subjects in school are math and Nepali. He hopes to become a doctor. (Joti Sohi)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). The campaign has helped Rupesh to avoid work in the kilns and attend the Dattatraya Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur, but this does not mean his life is easy or completely free of bricks. Rupesh was born in Bhaktapur and began to work in bricks at the age of three. He even showed us how he flipped bricks, but his mother Urmila insisted this was not “child labor.” She explained that Rupesh would never make more than two to three bricks in a day and that “he liked playing in mud,” and this was the only way she could keep an eye on him. You hear this argument a lot when people talk of very young children working in bricks, and it is certainly what the factory owners would like us to believe! During the brick-making season, Rupesh lives with his parents but this means he has to look after his six-month old brother when his parents go to work in the early hours and before he goes to school. Rupesh says he does not enjoy living in the kilns, as it is “very smoky.” It takes him one hour to walk to school. Indeed, life remains very difficult for young children like Rupesh. His favorite subject is math, and he tells us that he wants to be a father when he grows up. (Iain Guest)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Manju accompanies her parents to the kilns at the beginning of the brick season. Once there she attends the Dattatraya Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur while her parents work in the kilns. Her family seems to be constantly on the move. At the beginning of the dry season they move to the brick kilns, but once the monsoon season begins they must find other work. This year (2016), they have opened a small tea shop. Manju occasionally helps in the shop but only on holidays. She remembers the brick kilns very clearly. The work was hard and it was also very difficult to live in one small room in the kilns. Manju’s favorite subject in school is Nepali, and she hopes to become a nurse one day. The 2016 school year is Manju’s second year of being sponsored. (Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Alina and her brother Yamraj study at the Dattatraya Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur while their parents work in the kilns. Alina was born in Ramechhap and the family moved down to Bhaktapur to work in the kilns when she was 2 years old. While the children now go to school, they have not completely stopped working in the kilns. Alina says that she and and her brother work short shifts, flipping and making bricks. They treat it like a game and say that they have enough time to study and play, but they also describe life in the kilns as very difficult. It is very cold in the winter and they do not have enough blankets or warm clothing. Their parents are illiterate and unable to help them with school work. Despite these challenges, Yamraj is at the top of his class and even helps Alina with her home wrork. The 2016 school year was the second year that Yamraj and Alina have been sponsored. (Joti Sohi and Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Yamraj was born in Ramachhap and the family moved down to Bhaktapur to work in the kilns when he was one. Like his sister Alina, he studies at the Dattatraya Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur, but this has not totally rescued them from the kilns. Both work short shifts even on school days, flipping and making bricks. They treat it like a game and say that they have enough time to study and play. But they also describe the kilns as very difficult. It is very cold in the winter and they do not have enough blankets or warm clothing. Their parents are illiterate and unable to help them with their school work. Despite these challenges, Yamraj is at the top of his class and even helps Alina at school. The 2016 school year is the second year that Yamraj and Alina have been sponsored. (Joti Sohi and Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Roji was born in Bhaktapur and her parents have worked in the brick factories for as long as she can remember. Roji also worked in the factory for a few years, but today she attends the Dattatraya Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur while her parents work. After school Roji helps out with cooking, cleaning, and laundry. She says that living in the kilns is difficult. It is especially scary to use the toilets at night because they are quite far from her dwelling in the factory. Roji’s favorite subjects are English and Math. Roji wants to help the poor and dreams of becoming a doctor one day. (Joti Sohi)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Kumari studies at the Dattatraya Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur. More important still, her entire family has broken with bricks in just two years. In 2015 Kumari told Peace Fellow Joti Sohi that her parents were working in the kilns and that she also “piled bricks before school.” One year later, in 2016, however, she told Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell that her father had left bricks to work as a driver, while her mother was now employed in the carpet factory (although this industry is also known to take advantage of child labor). After school, Kumari helps her mother with cleaning and other domestic chores. Kumari has two younger sisters, aged nine and three. This family seems especially deserving of support, not just because they have taken such a strong stand against bricks but because their house was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake – and this could put added pressure on Kumari to start work before she completes her education. Kumari’s favorite subject in school is English and she hopes to become a teacher when she grows up. (Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Sanjib studies at the Dattatraya Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur, but it has not been easy for him to avoid work in the brick factory. He was born in Bhaktapur, and worked in the brick kilns full-time from the age of six. Even after he entered school in 2015, he continued to help his parents with brick-making after school until nightfall. He told Peace Fellow Joti Sohi that this left him with little time to study and that he did his homework every morning. Sanjip was still fighting to stay in school in 2016, a year later, when he met with Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell. He was very determined and said that he wanted to follow the example of his brother Pasang, 16, who had just finished his SLC exam. But the pressure was mounting. Sanjip’s other older brother, 17, dropped out of school after making it to Class 8 because the family could no longer afford to pay for his schooling. Sanjib himself was still under pressure to work during the day before and after school – helping his mother to weave and do domestic chores. But at least his brother Pasang was helping him with his studies – something his parents are unable to do because of their own lack of education. (Lauren Purnell and Joti Sohi)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Until 2010, Muskan’s parents used to be farmers. They were then persuaded by a broker (naike) to work in bricks, and began the anniual journey down from the hills of Ramechhap to Bhaktapur every November. Muskan went with them. Today she studies at the Dattatraya Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur and lives with her parents in the factory. Life became a lot harder for this family after the house was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. Muskan’s father went to Bahrain to work for a year and decided to stay for at least another year, splitting up the family. During his absence, Muskan’s mother has continued to work in the brick factory in the dry season. While Muskan herself does not work in the kilns, she does cook meals for the family and take care of her two younger sisters. Muskan says it is very difficult to find clean water in the kilns and that she feels “suffocated” living there. But she still has enough time to study. Her aim is to be a nurse. The 2016 school year is Muskan’s second year being sponsored. (Joti Sohi and Lauren Purnell )
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Roj lives with his mother and older sister, 10, in the brick factory while attending the Dattatraya Lower Secondary School in Bhaktapur. In spite of his young age, Roj has been the man of the house since his father left to work in Saudi Arabia. His father rarely sends remittances, either because he doesn’t trust Roj’s mother or because of the difficulty of transferring money. Roj’s family is healthy and he has time to study (with help from his older sister) and to play hide and seek. But he has not escaped from bricks completely and told Peace Fellow Joti Sohi in 2015 that he helped his mother pile bricks for 2 hours after school. Roj’s favorite subject in school is science and he hopes to become a pilot when he grows up. (Joti Sohi and Lauren Purnell )
(Supported by AP in 2015). After her father passed away two years ago, Laxmi’s aunt insisted that the family move to Bhaktapur. The campaign covered the cost of her schooling at the Shree Hansabahini Primary School but was unable to continue support in 2016. This is unfortunate, because her teachers and principal describe her as a very bright student. Laxmi always scored top marks in all of her subjects. Her favorite subject is English, and she hopes to become a nurse one day. Her mother is also fiercely opposed to bricks. She expects Laxmi to help out with chores around the house is determined that Laxmi will never make bricks. (Joti Sohi )
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Bishal’s family moved to Bhaktapur shortly after he was born. He worked in the brick kilns until the age of 7, when he enrolled in the Bigeshori Higher Secondary School. The campaign pays for his schooling and that of his younger sister Srijana but the two are still deeply involved in making bricks – perhaps more so than any other sponsored children. In 2016, Bishal told Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell that he and his sister Srijana work for 10 hours a day during holidays and Saturdays, waking up at midnight to make bricks. Adding to the pressure, the family home in Ramechhap was destroyed by the earthquake, putting more pressure on the children to contribute to the family income. CONCERN has tried to convince the parents to take Bishal and Srijana out of bricks, but so far without success – perhaps because they do not understand the value of educating their children. At least Bishal says he is happier because he can also attend school. His favorite subject is social science, and he hopes to one day become a doctor. (Joti Sohi and Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Srijana’s’s family moved to Bhaktapur before she was born. Today she attends the Bigeshori Higher Secondary School in Bhaktapur, like her brother Bishal. When she met with Peace Fellow Joti Sohi in 2015, Srijana’s family was living in temporary housing because of the 2015 earthquake. The family planned to move back to the kilns once the factory re-opened after the monsoon in October. Even though she attends school in Bhaktapur, Srijana also works in the kilns flipping bricks, often with her brother Bishal. Srijana’s favorite subjects in school are math and Nepali. She hopes to become a teacher when she grows up. (Joti Sohi )
(Supported by AP in 2015). Asmita and her family moved to Patan when she was an infant. Two years ago, her family was recruited to work in the kilns by brokers (naike) and received an advance payment that has made it very difficult to escape brick work. Her father expressed some frustration at this, but he has few other opportunities to work. Asmita attended the Suryodaya Primary School (in Lalitpur district) in 2015 with support from the campaign. As she says, “school is tough, but I manage.” With no extra tutoring in school and her parents both illiterate, Asmita has to do everything herself. Her favorite subject in school is English, and she hopes to one day become a doctor. It is particulary unfortunate that the campaign was not able to support this determined young woman for a second year. (Lauren Purnell )
(Supported by AP in 2015). Ram’s family moved to Bhaktapur when he was an infant. Today, both parents work in the brick factory and live in the kiln year round. Even though Ram is enrolled at the Suryodaya Primary School (Lalitpur district), he continues to work in the kilns in the mornings and after school. Ram is also one of the many unfortunate children who suffered injury while working in the kilns. He says that he does not enjoy making bricks, as it gives him less time to finish his homework, but he also understands that he has to help his family. Ram is the treasurer in the school’s child club, loves English, and hopes to become a driver. (Joti Sohi )
(Supported by AP in 2015). Sabina’s mother is the second wife of the house, which means that she lives separately from her father and his first family. Her mother also works in the kilns, where she and Sabina live. Sabina is enrolled at the Suryodaya Primary School in Lalitpur and the campaign covers the cost. Even though it is tough most days, Sabina’s mother is adamant that her daughter not quit school and Sabina also understands that she needs to study hard if she is to get a good job and help her family. Her favorite subject in school is Nepali, and she hopes to become a nurse when she grows up. (Joti Sohi )
(Supported by AP in 2015 and 2016). Balram is from Ramechhap. His parents are farmers but for the past three years they have been moving to Bhaktapur to work in the brick kilns during the dry season. Balram attends the Dattatraya Lower School in Bhaktapur with help from the campaign and his parents also help him with his school work. Balram has never worked in the factories himself, but he says he has seen the kilns and the work the children do there and describes such work as “very sad.” He does not like it at all. Balram’s favorite subject in school is English and he hopes to one day become a teacher. (Joti Sohi and Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2016). Last year, Asmita lived in the brick factory, but this year most of the family will stay in Ramechhap district so as not to disrupt her education at the Panchakanya village school. This family has made a big commitment to education, even though it is not easy. Asmita’s father still works in the brick kilns, as does her older brother, aged 21. But Asmita’s mother remains at home with Asmita, two sisters (aged 13 and 18) and a brother (9). The oldest sister dropped out of school in ninth grade, but the second sister is still in school. Asmita’s brother is also studying in class 4. Asmita would like to be a teacher and enjoys learning Nepali. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2016). Both of Yamuna’s parents work in the brick factory during the dry season, and until this year she traveled with them. But today she lives at home in the village of Kanyapani (Ramechhap) with relatives and her siblings. This allows her to attend the Panchakanya village school. It shows how much her parents appreciate the value of her education. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2016). Dev’s family is working hard to better their economic circumstances and CONCERN is glad to help. Dev himself attends the Panchakanya village school in Ramechhap and his mother is taking adult education classes so that she can find a better job. Dev’s father has been working abroad in Malaysia for the past two years. The separation is difficult, but his father is able to send money home regularly. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by AP in 2016). During the brick season, Asmita lives in Ramechhap and goes to school in the village of Panchakanya, Ramechhap while her parents work in the brick kilns of Bhaktapur as they have done for more than 20 years. Asmita has two younger sisters – Monita, who is 5, and Surita, 9. They stay with their uncle who also raises goats that were provided by CONCERN. Asmita plans to accompany her parents next season to live in the brick factories, while her younger siblings stay behind. She will help her parents by cooking, but also hopes that she will be able to continue attending school. CONCERN will doits best to ensure that she does. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Both of Sabina’s parents work in the brick kilns during the season, but Sabina remains behind with relatives in the village of Ramechhap, where she attends the Panchakanya School with help from the campaign. Sabina wants to be a teacher and loves learning Nepali. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Puskar is the youngest child of his family by at least a decade. He remains at home in Ramechhap throughout the year and attends the Panchakanya with help from the campaign. CONCERN hopes that this will create a demand for education in the family and keep Puskar out of the bricks permanently, but there are certainly pressures in the other direction. Puskar’s four older siblings, aged between 20 and 32, are all married and all four work in bricks in Bhaktapur during the season. His father and mother stay home because his father broke a leg working in the brick factory. But when Puskar is older, there is a good chance that one of his siblings might ask Puskar to join them working in the kilns. CONCERN is hoping that school will prevent this from happening.
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Sarmila spends half the year in Ramechhap district, where the campaign supports her studies at the Panchakanya School, and the second half in Bhaktapur where she lives with her parents while they work in the kilns. Sarmila does not work in bricks herself but instead takes care of household chores like washing dishes – the sort of work that will help her family and could not be considered exploitative. After the monsoon begins, and the brick factories close down in April, Sarmila and her family will return home and tend to their eight. She has a younger brother, Sarah, who has just started school. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Rahul has entered school at the earliest possible age – six – and this suggests a serious commitment by his family to education. He attends the Panchakanya village school in Ramechhap between April and October, and while at school he also watches over the family’s goat. He expects to leave for Bhaktapur with his family when the brick season begins although AP was not able to ascertain whether he will work in the brick kilns alongside his older siblings, Swostica and Jayaram, or continue in school. Overall the family seems committed to education and Rahul is lucky in that his older siblings help him study, because both of his parents are illiterate.
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Priti lives in the village of Ramechhap and attends the Panchakanya School during the monsoon season, with help from the campaign. She then travels with her parents to Bhaktapur during the brick season and goes to school while they work. Priti’s two older sisters, 12 and 19, also work in the brick factories. This family is forced by poverty to work in bricks. They have nine goats in Ramechhap but this does not provide enough money to sustain the family year round. In addition, their house in Ramechhap was partially destroyed by the earthquake in April 2015, putting them under additional economic pressure. While in Ramechhap, Priti helps her mother cook and looks after the goats. Her older sister helps her study but she still has trouble with math. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). At the age of eight, Budhi already has more work experience than many college students in the U.S. He worked for three years in the kilns before the campaign began sponsoring his education at the Suryodaya Balbikas Primary School in Lalitpur district. Buddhi takes his 2-year-old sister with him to school so that she will not be in the way of her parents while they work in the kilns. His favorite subject is English, and after a fellow student said that he wanted to be a pilot, Buddhi sweetly agreed. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Sanu is the youngest member of a big family. He has three older sisters and one older brother and speaks fondly of them all. When he tells us that his father won a prize for carrying the most bricks last season, the pride shows on his face. Indeed, he is all smiles until he notices the camera pointed in his direction, at which point he switches to the subdued expression seen in his photo. Given his history one might expect him to be serious. Although only 11 years old, he worked in the brick factory for three years before the campaign enabled him to attend the Suryodaya Balbikas Primary School in Lalitpur. He wants to be a pilot. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). The campaign is helping Aashish to attend the Suryodaya Balbikas Primary School in Lalitpur, even though her family does not work in the kilns. The principal of the school made a special appeal to CONCERN, because Aashish’s father has deserted her family, leaving her mother to care for Aashish and Aashish’s older sister, who is handicapped. As well as helping a family in great need, CONCERN’s support may also prevent Aashish from entering brick work when she is older.
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Manisha worked in the KKM brick factory for five years before entering the Suryodaya Balbikas Primary School in Lalitpur with help from the campaign. Her parents continue to work in the factory and we are disturbed to learn that Manisha also works five hours a day in the brick kiln during the dry season. During the monsoon season, the family returns to the village, where they keep two goats and one cow. Most of what they produce is for their own consumption and not sold. Manisha’s uncle tends the animals while the family leaves for the brick-making season. It is harder for this family to avoid working in bricks because their house was destroyed in the 2015 earthquake.&.
(Supported by GFC in 2016). The three Pariyar brothers pictured in this photo – Bir Bahadur, Prakash, and Santosh – moved down to Patan at the start of the brick season with their father and older brother so that they could all work in the brick factory. CONCERN then enrolled them at the Suryodaya Balbikas Primary School in Lalitpur, which undubtedly rescued them from bricks. But challenges remain. The boys are Dalit – from the lowest caste in Nepal. This puts them at an economic disadvantage even though caste has formally been abolished in Nepal. They are all in a lower grade than is usual for boys of their age and the grade they were in in their village school (Dang-Nai Gua). The reason is that their English was poor. In addition, their mother ran away with another man two years ago, abandoning her husband and sons. Their oldest brother, Gribada, 12, made it to Class 3 before dropping out and will now work full-time in the kilns with his father while his brothers are at school. The brothers have promised not to work in the kilns and CONCERN will try to make sure they keep their promise! ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Mixan has been living in Kathmandu for a year with his older brother, 10, and sister, 13. Mixan’s father Chari. seen in the photo with Mixan, traveled to Qatar three years ago to work on a gas line but became seriously ill because of the fumes and was forced to leave after fulfilling only part of his contract. This has left him deeply in debt and he arrived home on April 18, 2015, one week before the earthquake hit his district and displaced the family. Chari now plans to work in the brick kilns in the fall. He says that his children will be living and working in the brick kilns but has also received funds from the campaign to put Mixan through school. CONCERN will work with the family to ensure that Mixan does not slip into brick work. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Nisal has worked in the brick factory for the past two years with his parents. In the off season they work in construction. Nisal helps his family by looking after his one year-old brother. He hopes to be a policeman when he grows up so he can catch thieves. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Bishal and his family came originally from a small village in Ramechhap to Patan to work in the brick factory, so CONCERN was pleased to enroll him at the Suryodaya Balbikas Primary School in Lalitpur district in 2016. The family lives outside the brick factory (where living conditions are terrible) and this helps Bishal avoid work in the kilns. Sadly, however, their family home back in the village was damaged in the 2015 earthquake. Bishal has two younger siblings and is nearing the age where he could be drawn into working in the kilns alongside his parents, but he is an active participant in CONCERN’s program, serving as a treasurer for the child club. CONCERN is sponsoring Bishal’s education so that he can continue to be a leader in the community and set a good example to fellow students. He dreams of being a doctor and loves mathematics. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Rojina Manandhar and her sister Garima moved from Ramechhap to Bhaktapur with their parents to work in the kilns seven months ago after their home was destroyed in the earthquake. Their father currently works in construction, but when the brick factories reopen both parents will work in the kilns. CONCERN has enrolled the sisters in the Faidhoka School in Bhaktapur, but it is not clear whether they expect to work in bricks while also attending school. They will help their mother with household chores like cooking and washing dishes. But the sisters also told Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell that they wake at three in the morning to work in bricks during the season. CONCERN will follow up and try to keep them completely focused on school. Regardless of bricks, the sisters still feel life in Bhaktapur is not as difficult as it was in Ramechhap, where they had to work in the fields. Also the sisters feel that they are receiving a better education in Bhaktapur because the teachers are more knowledgeable than those back in their village. At school, Rojina enjoys her science classes and has the most difficulty with social sciences. It is interesting that while Rojina and her sister attend a public school Bhaktapur, their six year-old brother attends an expensive boarding school. The education of sons is often valued more highly in Nepal than that of daughters. (Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Garima Manandhar and her sister Rojina moved from Ramechhap to Bhaktapur with their parents to work in the kilns seven months ago after their home was destroyed in the earthquake. Their father currently works in construction, but when the brick factories reopen both parents will work in the kilns. CONCERN has enrolled the sisters in the Faidhoka School in Bhaktapur, but it is not clear whether they expect to work in bricks while also attending school. They will help their mother with household chores like cooking and washing dishes but they also told Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell that they wake at three in the morning to work in bricks during the season. CONCERN will follow up and try to ensure that they are completely committed to their school work. Regardless of bricks, the sisters still feel life in Bhaktapur is not as difficult as living in Ramechhap, where they had to work in the fields. Also the sisters feel that they are receiving a better education in Bhaktapur because the teachers are more knowledgeable than the ones in their village. Garima’s favorite subject in school is computer science, something she would have never been able to take in the village. Garima also loves dancing. It is interesting that while Rojina and her sister attend a public school Bhaktapur, their six year-old brother attends an expensive boarding school. The education of sons is often valued more highly in Nepal than that of daughters. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Samita has had a very difficult life. When she was ten, she dropped out of school to help her mother take care of her infant siblings. Her mother had just had twins and she needed extra help at home. For some, this may have marked the end of school, but Samita was determined to stay in school as long as possible. She re-enrolled at thirteen, even though she was forced to continue working in the brick kilns during the season. CONCERN then enrolled her again at the Faidhka School in Bhaktapur in 2016. When Samita met with Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell in August, she said that her home life is troubled and that she felt unwanted. She doesn’t know how much longer she will be able to stay at home. CONCERN is watching her situation carefully and wants to do all it can to help Samita finish her secondary education. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Rojina lives in Bhaktapur where she and her eight year-old brother have been helping their family make bricks during the dry season for many years. In spite of her young age Rojina has many other responsibilities in her household where she washes dishes, cooks food, and looks after her younger brother. Her mother manages the house while her father works in the kilns. CONCERN has enrolled Rojina in the Faidhoka School in Bhaktapur. She hopes to stay in school and become a teacher. Her favorite subject is Nepali. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Debaki lives in Bhaktapur with her parents, her 4 year-old brother and her 2 year-old sister. She and her brother go to the same school in Bhaktapur and she told Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell that she joins her parents in making bricks during the dry season. CONCERN has enrolled her at the Faidhoka School in Bhaktapur for the Fall of 2016 and hopes to dissuade her completely from making bricks. Debaki loves her native language, Nepali, and hopes to be able to teach it someday. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Haris lives with his parents and sister, 9, in Bhaktapur. When he met with Peace Fellow Lauren Purnell in August 2016, Haris and his sister were attending the Devi School. His favorite subjects were English and computers. His parents work in the brick kilns during the dry season and Haris helps them for four hours a day making bricks, carrying mud and flipping bricks. His sister is luckier – she only has to help with domestic chores like cooking. CONCERN certainly hopes that enrolment at Faidhoka will take Haris out of bricks completely. Haris and his sister have a good relationship. They play together and help each other study. Haris loves football. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Puja Khati’s family is originally from Sarlahi. They now live in Bhaktapur and CONCERN has enrolled her in the Faidhoka School. Her family is from the lowest caste in Nepal, the Dalit, and this creates difficulties for Puja. She doesn’t always have enough supplies for school as is perhaps clear from her photo – Puja’s clothes were more worn-out than those of the other sponsored students. Puja would like to stay in school, and not drop out like her older sister, who ran away to get married at 14 (quite common for young girls from lower castes, who see mariage as a way out of poverty). Although Puja’s home life is difficult, she has friends at school, and her best friend Nabina helps her study. Puja has domestic chores during the off season, and says that when the kilns reopen she will need to help her parents make bricks. CONCERN will try and dissuade her and her parents. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Deepak is a very serious 10 year-old. He has spent half of his short life working along side his mother in the brick factory and helping her in the house. His father was killed in Nepal’s conflict, which ended in 2006. Deepak has no siblings which puts more of a load on him that other children of his age. CONCERN has enrolled Deepak at the Suryodaya Balbikas Primary School in Lalitpur. His aim in life is to become a driver and to earn money, which most of the sponsored children seem to dream of! His favorite subject in school is Nepali. ( Lauren Purnell)
(Supported by GFC in 2016). Nabina Shrestha is originally from Ramechhap. She has two older brothers and all three help their parents in the kilns where they work for about an hour a day. While this may not seem like a long time Nabina has already been injured working in bricks. The family house in Bhaktapur was partially destroyed by the 2015 earthquake. CONCERN has enrolled Nabina at the Faidhoka School in Bhaktapur, where she studies in Class 5 and is first in her class. This is partly due to her brothers, who help Nabina with her studies. Although Nabina, like most Nepalis, chooses not to smile in her pictures, she had a sweet smile on her face when she told us that she aspired to be a doctor. When Nabina has time to play, she likes to play badminton and play with her friend Ramita. Nabina is really fond of her grandparents and goes to meet them quite often. ( Lauren Purnell)
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Global Song Song Couple (GSSC) unites the international fans of two Korean superstars, Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Kyo. Their goal is to improve the lives of the less fortunate through charitable efforts. GSSC kindly raised $1,300 for CONCERN’s campaign in 2016.
The Global Fund for Children envisions a world where all children have the opportunity to grown, learn, and thrive. The Fund donated $5,000 to CONCERN’s campaign in 2016.
Grace McGuire, a 12-year-old student in Washington DC, mobilized her friends and created an online site Bricks2Books to raise funds for the campaign. Grace raised $519, much of it in pennies. This was enough to take four children out of brick factories and place them in school.
Joty Sohi served as a 2015 Peace fellow at CONCERN and raised $1,000 for the campaign through GoFundMe.
The footage on this page was taken by AP and CONCERN in the factories that collaborate with CONCERN. The clips illustrate the different stages of making bricks.
Clearing the ground: Agricultural land is cleared where rice paddy once grew. This will provide space for the bricks to be made.
Making bricks: The mud for bricks is mixed on the site, and then inserted into a mold to produce a finished brick. Many workers have been coming to the same factory for years and experienced workers can produce up to 1,000 bricks a day. They will be paid around one rupee for each brick. This worker begins at one o’clock in the morning and works until 5 pm.
Infants and bricks: Most families are too poor to provide for child care and are forced to keep infants at their side while they work. This exposes children to bricks at a very early age and increases the likelihood that they will start turning bricks before the age of 5, when primary school begins. CONCERN hopes to install a day care center in all 7 factories.
Flipping bricks: After the bricks are made, they are left out to harden for three days. During this time they are regularly turned or “flipped.” Children are good at flipping bricks because they have small fingers and nimble feet, which can navigate between the rows and tread on bricks without breaking them. Children would not be needed if the rows were made wider, but this would reduce the number of bricks that are made – and the family’s income.
Night work: Workers begin making bricks as early as one o’clock in the morning. This young worker gave his age as 15, but was probably nearer 13. Either would be illegal under Nepali law. Night work is particularly unpleasant in the winter and cold.
Stacking and carrying: Once the bricks are hard, they are stacked and carried to the kiln, where they will cook for several weeks.
Carrying bricks: Workers carry 25 bricks at a time, from the stacks to the kilns. They get paid 320 rupees ($3.00) for every 1,000 bricks they carry, and hurry to get in as many loads as possible. Back injuries are common, particularly among elderly women.
Entering the kilns: Once at the kilns, the bricks have to be carried up the stairs and into a narrow space where they will be stacked.
Heating the furnace: The kilns comprise one or more chimneys, which are heated from the ground by coal. This work is tiring and also generates carbon gases. As a result, the brick industry has been harshly criticized by Nepali environmentalists. Some owners have responded by putting filters in their chimney stacks.
Cooking the bricks: Bricks are stacked in the kiln, above the furnace where they will cook for several weeks until they are become red and hard. Many factories produced large quantities in 2015, expecting that demand would grow following the earthquake. But the pace of reconstruction has been very slow and most factories are stocking many more bricks than they can sell. In spite of this over-supply, most factories are producing at the same rate as 2015, because they fear losing their workers.