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Kids From The Global South Aren’t Photo Props- Why Responsible Tourism Also Means Protecting Children


by Rosa Sohn



Welcome to the world of travel! As travelers, we embark on journeys to explore new places, experience different cultures, and create lasting memories. However, it is essential that we approach travel with a responsible mindset, taking into consideration the impact our actions can have on local communities, cultures, and the environment.


In recent years, there has been a growing focus on responsible tourism, which aims to promote sustainable travel practices that benefit both the travelers and the destinations they visit. Responsible tourism encompasses various aspects, including supporting local economies, preserving natural resources, and respecting the cultural heritage of the places we encounter.


In this article, we delve into the issue of exploitative tourism and highlight one particular aspect: the use of children from the Global South as mere photo props. We aim to shed light on this issue, raise awareness, and provide insights on how we can promote responsible tourism while ensuring the protection and well-being of these children.


When we talk about the Global South, we refer to the regions of the world that are generally considered to be less economically developed, including countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These regions are often popular tourist destinations due to their rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and unique experiences they offer.


Unfortunately, the popularity of these destinations has led to some negative consequences, including the exploitation of vulnerable populations, particularly children. In the pursuit of capturing Instagram-worthy photos or seeking an exotic experience, some travelers may unknowingly or deliberately contribute to the exploitation of children by using them as photo props without understanding the underlying implications.


Children from the Global South are often victims of this practice, being approached by tourists who want to take pictures with them or use them as props to enhance the “authenticity” of their travel experience. This exploitation can have severe consequences for these children, including the violation of their rights, disruption of their education, and perpetuation of harmful stereotypes.


In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the issue of exploitative tourism and examine the impact it has on children from the Global South. We will also discuss how we can promote responsible tourism practices to ensure the well-being and protection of these vulnerable individuals.


Understanding Responsible Tourism

Responsible tourism goes beyond simply enjoying a vacation—it is about being mindful of the impact our travel choices have on the destinations we visit. It is about making choices that respect the environment, preserve cultural heritage, and support local communities.


One of the key principles of responsible tourism is minimizing the negative environmental impacts of travel. This can be achieved by adopting sustainable practices such as reducing waste, conserving energy, and supporting eco-friendly initiatives. Travelers can make a difference by choosing accommodations that are eco-certified, participating in wildlife conservation programs, and opting for eco-friendly transportation options.


Another important aspect of responsible tourism is respecting and preserving the cultural heritage of the places we visit. This involves engaging with local communities in a respectful manner, learning about their traditions and customs, and supporting local artisans and businesses. By doing so, travelers not only contribute to the local economy but also help to preserve and celebrate the unique cultural identity of these destinations.


Supporting local communities is a crucial aspect of responsible tourism. This means choosing to eat at local restaurants, staying in locally owned accommodations, and participating in community-based tourism initiatives. By doing so, travelers can directly contribute to the economic development of the communities they visit, helping to improve livelihoods and create sustainable opportunities for local residents.


Moreover, responsible tourism emphasizes the importance of ethical wildlife encounters. Travelers should avoid engaging in activities that exploit animals or cause harm to their natural habitat. Instead, opt for responsible wildlife experiences that prioritize conservation and animal welfare.


In summary, responsible tourism is about making conscious choices that respect the environment, preserve cultural heritage, support local communities, and prioritize the well-being of both humans and animals. By adopting responsible tourism practices, we can ensure that our travels have a positive impact on the destinations we visit while allowing us to create memorable experiences that enrich our lives.


Understanding the Global South

The term “Global South” refers to regions and countries that are located in the southern hemisphere and are typically characterized by lower levels of economic development, compared to the Global North. These regions encompass diverse countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, each with their own unique cultures, landscapes, and histories.


The Global South is often a popular destination for travelers seeking to experience rich cultural heritage, explore breathtaking landscapes, and engage with local communities. From the vibrant markets of Marrakech to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, these regions offer a wealth of experiences that captivate the hearts and imaginations of visitors from around the world.


However, it is important to recognize that the Global South also faces numerous challenges, including poverty, inequality, and social issues. The economic disparities between the Global South and the Global North can make these regions particularly vulnerable to exploitation and injustices, especially in the realm of tourism.


For many communities in the Global South, tourism is an essential source of income and livelihood. However, the influx of tourists can also give rise to issues such as overtourism, cultural appropriation, and exploitation. It is crucial for travelers to approach their visits to these regions with sensitivity, respect, and a commitment to responsible tourism practices.


By understanding the unique challenges and dynamics of the Global South, travelers can make informed decisions and actively contribute to the well-being and development of the communities they visit. This includes supporting local businesses, engaging in responsible wildlife encounters, respecting cultural traditions, and being aware of the potential impact of their actions on the environment and local people.


Furthermore, it is important to recognize the diversity and richness of the cultures and histories of the Global South. Each country and community has its own distinct traditions, languages, and ways of life. By taking the time to learn about and appreciate these differences, travelers can foster mutual understanding and break down stereotypes.


Ultimately, understanding the Global South is about recognizing the complexities and nuances of these regions, and approaching travel with empathy, respect, and a commitment to responsible tourism. By doing so, we can create meaningful connections, promote cultural exchange, and contribute to the sustainable development of these diverse and enchanting destinations.


The Issue of Exploitative Tourism

Exploitative tourism is a deeply concerning issue that can have severe consequences for vulnerable populations, particularly in the context of the Global South. It occurs when tourists engage in activities that exploit people or communities for their own entertainment or personal gain, without considering the ethical implications.


One aspect of exploitative tourism is the use of children from the Global South as photo props. This practice involves tourists approaching local children and using them as subjects in their photographs, with little regard for the well-being and dignity of these young individuals.


Children from the Global South are often seen as exotic or intriguing by tourists. They might be approached on the streets, asked to pose for photos, or used as props to enhance the “authenticity” of a traveler’s experience. This objectification of children not only violates their rights but can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and contribute to a culture of exploitation.


It is crucial to understand that these children have their own hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, not as mere accessories for tourist photographs. Exploitative tourism not only disregards the rights and well-being of these children but also perpetuates a cycle of inequality and vulnerability.


Furthermore, this issue extends beyond the immediate impact on the children involved. Exploitative tourism can have long-lasting consequences for the communities and destinations as a whole. It can damage the social fabric, perpetuate poverty and inequalities, and undermine the local economy. It also reinforces the notion that the Global South exists solely for the consumption and entertainment of tourists, rather than as vibrant, thriving communities with their own culture and value.


Addressing the issue of exploitative tourism requires a multi-faceted approach. It begins with raising awareness and educating travelers about the ethical considerations and consequences of their actions. Emphasizing the importance of responsible tourism practices, such as obtaining informed consent and treating all individuals with dignity, is vital.


Local authorities and tourism organizations also play a crucial role in combating exploitative tourism. They can enforce regulations and guidelines that protect vulnerable populations, implement awareness campaigns, and promote responsible tourism initiatives that prioritize the well-being of local communities.


Ultimately, the fight against exploitative tourism requires a collective effort from travelers, the tourism industry, and local communities. By working together, we can create a more inclusive and responsible tourism culture that respects and empowers all individuals, ensuring that travel becomes a tool for positive change rather than a perpetuator of exploitation.


Children as Photo Props

One disturbing aspect of exploitative tourism in the Global South is the use of children as photo props. This practice involves tourists using local children as subjects in their photographs without considering the potential harm and exploitation involved.


Children from the Global South are often seen as exotic or intriguing by tourists seeking to capture the perfect travel photo. They may be approached on the streets, asked to pose for pictures, or used as props to enhance the authenticity and cultural appeal of a traveler’s experience. However, this objectification of children raises serious ethical concerns and can have significant negative consequences.


First and foremost, using children as photo props violates their rights and compromises their dignity. These vulnerable individuals deserve to be treated with respect and be allowed to grow and develop free from the exploitation of their images. By treating them as photo props, we are devaluing their humanity and perpetuating harmful power dynamics.


Moreover, using children as photo props perpetuates harmful stereotypes and reinforces the narrative that people from the Global South exist solely for the entertainment and consumption of tourists. This type of tourism reduces cultures and communities to mere spectacles and fails to acknowledge the complexities and richness of their lives.


Furthermore, the use of children as photo props can have lasting negative effects on their well-being and development. It can disrupt their daily routines, education, and social interactions. Additionally, when tourists offer money or gifts in exchange for photographs, it can create a dependence on such exploitative interactions, undermining the children’s agency and perpetuating cycles of poverty and vulnerability.


It is crucial that we approach photography and travel with empathy and ethical considerations. Instead of viewing the local children as photo opportunities, let us engage with them on a meaningful level. By interacting with the children in respectful ways, such as through play, conversation, or learning about their lives and aspirations, we can establish genuine connections that foster cross-cultural understanding and empathy.


Responsible travelers must prioritize the well-being and rights of children. That means obtaining informed consent from their guardians before photographing them, respecting their boundaries, and refraining from objectifying them. It is also essential to educate fellow travelers about the consequences of using children as photo props, promoting a culture of ethical and respectful tourism.


By refraining from using children as photo props, we contribute to a tourism culture that values and safeguards the rights of all individuals, regardless of their age or background. Let us shift our focus from capturing superficial moments to building real connections and promoting genuine cultural exchange, ensuring that our travel experiences become enriching and empowering for all involved.


The Impact on Children from the Global South

The use of children from the Global South as photo props in exploitative tourism not only violates their rights but also has significant detrimental effects on their well-being and development. The consequences of this practice can be far-reaching and long-lasting, impacting not only the children themselves but also their families and communities.


One of the immediate effects is the violation of the child’s rights to privacy, dignity, and consent. Being used as a mere prop for tourist photographs strips these children of their agency and reduces them to objects of curiosity. They are denied the opportunity to give or withhold consent, further perpetuating power imbalances and reinforcing harmful practices.


Exploitative tourism can disrupt the daily lives of children, including their education and social interactions. When children are constantly approached by tourists seeking photographs, it can lead to a sense of instability and a loss of focus on their studies. This can have long-term consequences on their educational attainment and hinder their opportunities for a brighter future.


Furthermore, the use of children as photo props can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and objectify the cultures and communities they come from. This creates a distorted image and perpetuates the “othering” of these communities, reinforcing the notion that they exist solely for the entertainment and consumption of tourists. Such stereotypes can lead to stigmatization and discrimination against these children and their communities.


Exploitative tourism also has economic repercussions for children and their families. In some cases, tourists may offer financial incentives or gifts in exchange for photographs, creating a dependence on these exploitative interactions. This can contribute to a cycle of poverty, as families may view their children as sources of income rather than prioritizing their education and well-being.


Additionally, the practice of using children as photo props can have long-lasting psychological effects on their self-esteem and self-worth. Being treated as objects for tourist amusement can lead to feelings of inferiority, shame, and diminished self-confidence. These emotional scars can persist into adulthood, affecting their overall well-being and ability to lead fulfilling lives.


It is essential for travelers and the tourism industry to recognize the potential harm caused by the use of children as photo props and take responsibility for promoting a culture of ethical and responsible tourism. This involves engaging in meaningful and respectful interactions with children, fostering cultural exchange based on understanding and empathy, and supporting initiatives that prioritize the well-being and rights of children in the Global South.


By protecting the rights and dignity of children in the Global South, we can help create an environment where they can thrive, receive quality education, and be active participants in their communities’ development. Investing in their well-being is not only a moral imperative but also a step toward fostering a more inclusive and responsible tourism industry.


How to Promote Responsible Tourism

Promoting responsible tourism involves making conscious choices that have a positive impact on the environment, local communities, and cultural heritage. By adopting the following practices, we can ensure that our travels contribute to sustainable development and foster a more inclusive and responsible tourism industry.


1. Educate Yourself: Before embarking on your trip, take the time to research the cultural norms, traditions, and history of the destination. Understanding and respecting the local customs will help you engage with the community in a more meaningful and respectful manner.


2. Respect the Environment: Be mindful of your ecological impact by minimizing waste, conserving water and energy, and supporting eco-friendly initiatives. Choose accommodations that have implemented sustainable practices and choose transportation options that reduce your carbon footprint.


3. Support Local Communities: Opt for locally-owned accommodations, restaurants, and businesses to contribute directly to the local economy. Engage with local artisans and craftspeople, purchase their products, and respect their prices and labor, ensuring that the economic benefits are fairly distributed.


4. Engage in Ethical Wildlife Encounters: Say no to activities that exploit animals or harm their natural habitats. Instead, support responsible wildlife encounters that prioritize animal welfare and conservation. Research and choose reputable organizations that work to protect and rehabilitate wildlife.


5. Be Mindful of Photography: Always seek informed consent before taking photos of people, particularly children. Respect the boundaries and cultural sensitivities of the local communities when capturing images. Avoid using individuals as mere photo props, as this objectifies and devalues their humanity.


6. Preserve Cultural Heritage: Respect historical sites, sacred places, and cultural artifacts. Follow any guidelines or restrictions set by local authorities and engage with cultural heritage in a way that honors its significance and promotes its preservation for future generations.


7. Be a Responsible Tourist: Practice responsible behavior by following local laws and regulations, being mindful of your noise levels, and respecting the privacy and personal space of local residents. Engage in positive interactions with the local communities, listen to their stories, and learn from their perspectives.


8. Educate Others: Share your knowledge and experiences about responsible tourism with friends, family, and fellow travelers. Encourage others to adopt responsible practices and be conscious of the impact of their actions while traveling.


9. Support Responsible Tourism Initiatives: Seek out and support organizations and initiatives that promote responsible tourism practices. This can include volunteering with local community development projects, supporting social enterprises, or contributing to conservation efforts in the area you visit.


By embracing responsible tourism practices, we can make a positive difference in the places we visit. Our actions can help preserve natural and cultural heritage, support local economies, and protect the rights and well-being of the communities we encounter. Together, we can create a more sustainable and inclusive tourism industry that benefits both travelers and destinations in the long run.


Educating Travelers about Responsible Tourism

Education plays a crucial role in promoting responsible tourism practices among travelers. By raising awareness and providing information about the importance of ethical behavior and sustainability, we can empower individuals to make informed choices that have a positive impact on the destinations they visit. Here are some key approaches to educating travelers about responsible tourism:


1. Online Resources and Websites: Develop informative and user-friendly websites that provide comprehensive information about responsible tourism. These resources can include articles, guides, and tips on sustainable travel practices, cultural sensitivity, and wildlife conservation. Incorporate engaging visuals, interactive features, and real-life stories to capture the attention and interest of travelers.


2. Social Media Campaigns: Utilize the power of social media platforms to spread awareness about responsible tourism. Share compelling stories, stunning visuals, and practical tips that encourage responsible behavior while traveling. Engage with travelers through Q&A sessions or interactive challenges to foster a sense of community and provide a platform for sharing experiences and knowledge.


3. Collaboration with Travel Agencies: Partner with travel agencies to incorporate responsible tourism information and guidelines into their itineraries. Train staff members on responsible tourism practices and encourage them to promote these principles to their clients. Provide travel agencies with resources and materials that they can share with their customers, highlighting the importance of responsible travel choices.


4. Workshops and Training Sessions: Organize workshops and training sessions for travelers, both online and offline. These sessions can cover topics such as cultural sensitivity, environmental conservation, and social responsibility. Invite local experts, community leaders, and conservationists to share their knowledge and experiences, providing firsthand insights into the impact of tourism on local communities and the environment.


5. Collaboration with Schools and Universities: Engage with educational institutions to incorporate responsible tourism into their curriculum. Offer guest lecture series, organize field trips, and encourage research projects focused on sustainable tourism. By reaching students at a young age, we can instill values of responsible travel and create a generation of conscious travelers.


6. Partnerships with Local Communities: Establish partnerships with local communities to develop educational programs and initiatives that raise awareness about responsible tourism. Involve community members in the process of educating travelers, giving them a voice to share their perspectives and insights. Collaborate on cultural exchange programs that allow travelers to engage directly with local communities, promoting mutual understanding and appreciation.


7. Certification and Accreditation Programs: Encourage the development and implementation of certification and accreditation programs that recognize businesses and accommodations committed to responsible tourism practices. Displaying these certifications gives travelers the assurance that their chosen service providers adhere to sustainable and ethical standards, further promoting responsible travel choices.


8. Case Studies and Success Stories: Highlight case studies and success stories of responsible tourism initiatives and their impact on local communities and environments. Share stories of positive outcomes, such as increased economic opportunities, ecological conservation, and cultural preservation. By showcasing these examples, we inspire and motivate travelers to follow in their footsteps and make a positive impact on their own journeys.


Educating travelers about responsible tourism is a continuous process that requires collaboration among various stakeholders, including governments, tourism organizations, communities, and the travelers themselves. By providing information, resources, and opportunities for engagement, we can empower travelers to make responsible choices and foster a tourism culture that respects and preserves the destinations we visit.


Supporting Local Communities in the Global South

One of the key aspects of responsible tourism is supporting local communities in the Global South. By engaging with and contributing to the local economy, travelers can make a meaningful and positive impact on the livelihoods and well-being of the people living in these regions. Here are some ways to support local communities:


1. Choose Locally-Owned Businesses: Opt for accommodations, restaurants, and tour operators that are locally owned and operated. By supporting these businesses, you directly contribute to the local economy and empower local entrepreneurs. Seek out authentic experiences that allow you to interact with the local community and learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life.


2. Purchase Local Products: When shopping for souvenirs or goods, prioritize purchasing locally-made products. This not only supports local artisans and craftsmen but also helps preserve traditional skills and cultural heritage. Explore local markets and cooperatives, engage with the artisans, and understand the stories behind the products you purchase.


3. Respect the Local Culture and Customs: Embrace and respect the local culture and customs by learning about and adhering to local etiquette. Be mindful of appropriate behavior, dress respectfully, and seek consent before taking photographs. Engage in a culturally sensitive manner, showing appreciation and understanding for the local way of life.


4. Engage in Community-Based Tourism: Participate in community-based tourism initiatives that directly involve local communities in offering authentic experiences. This could include homestays with local families, volunteering in community projects, or joining guided tours led by community members. By engaging with the local community, you not only contribute to their economic well-being but also gain a deeper understanding of their daily lives and challenges.


5. Support Social Enterprises: Seek out and support social enterprises that prioritize social and environmental goals. These enterprises often reinvest their profits into community development projects, education, and conservation efforts. By choosing these businesses, you are directly supporting initiatives that uplift and empower local communities.


6. Donate to Local Causes and Institutions: Research and identify local charities, schools, or organizations that are making a positive impact in the community. Consider making a donation or providing support to these causes during your visit. However, it is essential to do thorough research to ensure that your contribution goes directly to the intended beneficiaries.


7. Respect Natural and Cultural Resources: Take steps to minimize your environmental impact and promote the preservation of natural and cultural resources. Follow designated trails, leave no trace, and adhere to local regulations for protecting sensitive areas. Respect sacred sites and historical landmarks, understanding their significance and the need for their preservation.


8. Engage with Responsible Tour Operators: Choose tour operators who prioritize responsible tourism practices and have a strong commitment to supporting local communities. Look for operators that provide fair wages and working conditions for their staff, prioritize local guides and experts, and give back to the community through social and environmental initiatives.


By consciously supporting local communities in the Global South, travelers can play a significant role in promoting sustainable development and empowering local people. By fostering economic opportunities, preserving cultural heritage, and supporting social and environmental initiatives, responsible travelers can help create a more inclusive and equitable tourism industry.



As travelers, we have the power to shape the future of tourism by embracing responsible practices and promoting positive change. The issues of exploitative tourism and the use of children from the Global South as photo props highlight the need for a more conscious and ethical approach to travel.


Responsible tourism requires us to respect the environment, support local communities, preserve cultural heritage, and prioritize the well-being and rights of all individuals involved. By educating ourselves and others, we can foster a culture of responsible tourism that respects and protects the destinations we visit.


Through this article, we have explored the importance of understanding responsible tourism and acknowledging the unique challenges faced by the Global South. We have examined the issue of exploitative tourism and its impact on vulnerable children. We have also provided insights on how to promote responsible tourism, such as educating travelers, supporting local communities, and engaging in ethical practices.


By adopting responsible tourism practices, we can contribute to sustainable development, empower local communities, and preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the places we visit. It is in our hands to ensure that our travels not only provide us with enriching experiences but also leave a positive and lasting impact on the destinations and people we encounter.


Let us strive to be responsible, respectful, and empathetic travelers, and encourage others to join us. Together, we can create a tourism industry that celebrates diversity, fosters cross-cultural understanding, and promotes the well-being of local communities and the environment.


By embracing responsible tourism, we not only enhance our own travel experiences but also become agents of positive change – shaping a future where travel truly benefits all, and children from the Global South are no longer mere photo props but are respected and protected as the individuals they are.