There’s nothing better than an unexpected windfall, an added bonus, a surprise victory. This is exactly what we’ve seen in Budhpura, the village at the centre of our project to create Child Labour Free zones. A deep rooted cultural issue and one that we didn’t expect to see changing for a long time is all of a sudden getting tackled.
Gender equality, or more accurately, the complete lack of it is a real issue in semi-rural Indian villages like Budhpura. Let’s face it, gender equality is an issue in all societies. Huge progress has been made in “western societies”, and while we still have a long way to go, in places like rural India, the process has barely begun.
In October 2016, the Stop Child Labour coalition commissioned an external evaluation of its ‘Out of Work, In to School’ programme, that ran from May 2014 to April 2017 and is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the programme was to establish child labour free zones using an area-based approach in Asia, Africa and Latin-America, and to mobilise Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives and companies to actively address child labour in their full production and supply chains in order to contribute to the creation of child labour free zones and child labour free supply chains. Our ‘No Child Left Behind’ project is part of this larger programme and was also evaluated.
A quick snapshot of what has been achieved so far:
361 children were prevented from child labour and a whopping 593 were withdrawn from child labour, on a total of 1019 children that were initially identified as ‘out of school’
7 schools (6 primary, 1 secondary) are now running fully functional compared with only 1 before; 8 pre-school centres (Anganwadis) are also present whereas none was operational before.
Additional teachers to be appointed by June 2017, thanks to strong lobbying of state government.
84 adolescent girls (15-18y) completed stitching training and 22 young men (15-18y) finished a 6-months electrician education, allowing them to be more self sufficient without having to rely on the cobble trade.
17 Women’s self-help groups (SHG) were established, consisting of 197 members. SHG’s are structures for collective saving and facilitating access to credit. They are also to be seen as an instrument of empowerment for women.
570 people received access to pensions or benefits for widows that they were not even aware of.
586 workers received a health & accident insurance, paid for by the employers. Manjari hopes to extend the scheme to all workers in 2017.
69 cobble yards & traders have taken the issue of banning child labour seriously with violation of this ban being sanctioned. 14 yards have even installed camera surveillance
In less developed countries who are still fighting social battles, unions are an important part of society. Even though I understand the need for unions in developing countries like India, I was not entirely comfortable when I heard that the cobble traders of Budhpura had formed a union to support our project to create Child Labour Free Zones (CLFZ).
It felt fishy. A group of cobble traders whose norm was child labour coming together to help eradicate something that had supported their family’s standard of living for generations.
That’s where we were 2 years ago, when the cobbles Traders Union began to play a role, a role that’s now looking very decisive, in our project to create child labour free zones in Budhpura. I can vividly recall being sat under a veranda in a small cobble yard with the CLFZ project team, a handful of Indian stone exporters and the Budhpura cobble traders union. It was an awkward and uncomfortable meeting and not just because of the plastic chairs we were perched on. Looking back, it was new ground for everyone and at that time, nobody was really sure who was friend or foe.
Sanjay stands out in his classroom: not just because he is one of the tallest children, but also because he is very motivated. Not so long ago, his life was completely different: Sanjay worked in the stone quarry from when he was 9 years old until he was 12. He made cobblestones for the European market. Until his employer decided, one year ago, that it was enough.
“He told me that I could no longer work for him. We went to school together and he enrolled me,” says Sanjay.
Ever since 2013, the local NGO Majari has been working to convince the entire community that children should be at school and not at work. “It is really great that even employers are taking their responsibility now,” says Bajrang, a very proactive member of Manjari. Sanjay is doing his very best to catch up at school with all the years he missed out on.
What would he like to be when he grows up? “A teacher!” he beams.
“Every child should be in school’ This is the fundamental principle of Child Labour Free Zones. To achieve this goal though, a holistic approach is required that looks at the bigger picture as to why children in Budhpura end up working in cobble yards. That’s why the Manjari team also supports young adults to achieve vocational training. This helps them to earn a decent income, so that their younger brothers and sisters can focus on their education.
Netu and Hamleta are 19 years old and both dropped out of school many years ago. They are no longer of a school going age, but they are part of a Manjari skill building/training programme to teach young women stitching skills.