Hospitals are probably the place where life and death most commonly intersect. Last week after my grandmother went to the hospital to check on a grandchild, who’d just given birth, she told us about a traumatized family she’d seen there. She said their daughter had fallen off the Tower building in Jabal Amman. Her family were crying and wailing hysterically in the hallways. People were helping her sisters to their feet as they fell to the ground from shock. She said they seemed like a poor family. As she told us, someone said that it’s quite a strange thing for the girl to have fallen from there, and that she maybe killed herself. I can’t deny it occurred to me, but in an effort to refrain from judgment I blurted out at once: Maybe she was cleaning the windows…
As it turned out, it was just the right thing to assume. This morning a certain report on Alarabiya caught my attention. It was the same accident we were talking about a week ago.15 year-old Zohoor had fallen from the fifth floor as she was cleaning the windows in a “building in Amman”, but of course they didn’t mention name. If you’d seen her family and the house they live in, you probably would’ve understood at once why a girl so young had been tangled in the net of child labor. The report then went on to talk about child laborers in Jordan and even interviewed some kids who left school to be prematurely integrated in the labor market.
The question that arises now is: How could a girl of 15 years be assigned the task of cleaning windows in the fifth floor? I could hardly think of this as a woman’s job, how much less a child’s! I wonder who’s responsible for this and whether the impoverished family would afford to do anything to seek justice.
I can vaguely imagine her climbing up, grasping the window frame with one hand and a worn out rag with the other. Her grip tightens as she sets her foot on the outer edge of the window, while carefully mopping the glass. Maybe she was staring out to the beautiful view from that building, which is renowned to have the best view of Amman. I wonder what was going through her mind then, or if she even took notice of the view at all. I can’t even imagine that she loved the city to see the beauty of it while she was up there mopping the windows at 15. Whatever she was thinking, what perplexes me more is what was going through that same mind as she was falling down. It might seem too short a time think, but it probably had seemed longer to her. I wonder whether she saw death coming or hoped she would survive.
Zohoor might have died, but hundreds of children are still facing the daily hazards of working at places some adults even refuse to set a foot in. Children must be kept at home, sent to school and taken well care of, if not by their parents then by any other official body, it’s not their job to make a living. I really don’t know on whom falls the blame here. On the government? The parents? The society? The employer? All of those share the responsibility to secure the children’s need to shelter, care and education. What if the family is completely destitute so they send their child to work? What if the employer hired them out of sympathy? It’s quite ironic what sympathy could come to in these times!
The world seem to have been a dangerous place for Zohoor, and it certainly is for many other children like her. Zohoor is probably now in a much better place, but it’s our responsibility to make sure the world she left wouldn’t stay as cruel for those who are staying.
Originally Posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 http://oeliwat.jeeran.com/archive/2007/8/299451.html