It is rarely ever questioned that working children, often denoted by the term 'child labour', represents an inherently exploitative practice that must be brought to an end. However, sustained analysis of the kinds of action carried out to this end, along with the effects on those it is meant to help is minimal. Whilst taking care not to downplay the economic exploitation of children globally, Okyere and Howard’s article titled ‘Are we really saving the children?’ goes against the grain by challenging the reader to think through and critique a number of problematic assumptions at play within the dominant discourses and interventions aiming to ‘abolish’ child labour.
This points to a major failing on the part of the child saving community: it is deeply a-political. It rarely asks why, almost inevitably targeting symptoms instead of their underlying causes. Children’s work in agriculture, mining or even prostitution reflects the wider destitution of their home communities, and in turn the unjust, global, political-economic framework that perpetuates this destitution. Is anybody but the global elite served by an analysis that abstracts children-to-be-saved from the immiserated context that they inhabit or the causal dynamics conditioning that context? Surely, we say, there is not.