“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.
12 years ago, Netu’s family migrated from another district to Budhpura village. Shortly after reaching Budhpura, Netu’s mother died and from that moment on Netu would spend the entire day at home as a domestic worker. When Netu was first approached to attend the stitching course she was very reluctant to sign up as she was already very busy with her home and family responsibilities. After a lot of coaxing from the CLFZ team though, she realised that the training was in fact a great opportunity to increase her family’s income.
She has now completed level 1 of the stitching training and with the money she made from this she was able to buy her own stitching machine. Her face lights up when she shows us the blouses and shirts that she has made. With her level of training she is now able to make clothes for the local market and she is earning good money to support her family. There are also lots more opportunities for Netu to develop her skills and her ability to earn. If Netu can achieve level 4 of the training, she can work for bigger companies in Jaipur which will further improve her skills and earning power.
Hamleta’s parents came to Budhpura about 25 years ago. Hamleta attended school up until the 10th grade but because here mother worked in the Sandstone quarries she had to leave to take care of her brothers and sisters. Although Hamleta’s mother still work’s in the quarries today, after an intervention of the project team, Hamleta is now able to participate in the stitching training and while she is at the Manjari community centre, she gets chance to make use of the library as well.
Netu and Hamleta are just two of the 25 girls that were identified by the Manjari project team to participate in the skill building training programme. The training also gives the girls the opportunity to share their stories with each other, build their self confidence and help them to play a more active role in society. In this way the CLFZ project contributes to the development of the the community on so many levels.
Walking through the CLFZ project in Patiyal Hamlet of Budhpura , there is a good chance that you will come across a local boy called Shankar. You will not only see him in real life, but also on the posters and leaflets throughout the village. As the first child to attend school in his neighbourhood 11 year old Shankar has become the brand ambassador for the CLFZ project. Many others have since been motivated and inspired to follow his lead. Even though he is only 11 years old, Shankar already has a clear goal in life. He wants to become a teacher!
But how different his situation was two years ago. Shankar used to spend the entire day herding his family’s goats and going to school was not even an option. That was until his mother was approached by the Manjari team, after which she made a life changing decision: Her boy should be in school. It was a decision that was to have far reaching impacts for the whole of the Budhpura community.
Shankar’s parents had both been working in the cobble stone industry for many years until his father started to suffer from bad health. Shankar’s father’s poor health meant he has not been able to work for the last few years and because of this the family were already struggling to make ends meet. Nonetheless, Shankar’s mother was convinced that education could give her son a better life. Although it was not an easy decision, Shankar’s mother decided to sell the families herd of goats and to use the money to pay for her son’s education.
Shankar had never attended school before, so he was placed in one of Manjari’s bridge-schools to prepare him for formal education. Bridge schools, or bridge courses, are meant to make the transition from work to school easier for children. The smaller the gap from labour to school, the more children will succesfully make the transition, and the less likely they are to drop out of school in the future.
After 6 months with the Manjari Bridge school, Shankar was finally able to enrol in formal education. When asked what he likes most about his education, Shankar has a clear answer: “reading”, he says resolutely.“Reading books and short stories.” Outside school hours you will often find Shankar in the library at the Manjari community centre brushing up on his reading skills. Only after he has finished his extra school grammar classes though. As mentioned before, when he finishes school he wants to become a teacher; to pass along his knowledge to a new generation. Its great to see him working hard to achieve his goals and with such a strong work ethic its no wonder he has become an ambassador for the CLFZ project.
Anyone who has travelled to India for work or pleasure will be aware of the complex set of challenges the country faces as it strives to drag itself into the modern world, India is developing at break neck speed. Unsurprisingly though in the country that boasts the world’s largest population, it’s not all progress…….some people are getting left behind. Some of the workers in stone supply chains are testament to this, especially in remote quarry areas and villages like Budhpura. The communities in these areas face many challenges and in a country the size of India they are often overlooked and forgotten by the government…..left to their own devices. Many, of what we consider to be, fundamental rights are not available to these people, or if they are available they are difficult to obtain. Health care, education and employment opportunities are limited and basic community institutions are often lacking.
On the 27th of May, Manjari, with support of the State Forum on Natural Stone, Government of Rajasthan, Labour Department and Medical Department, has organised a mass health camp to raise awareness on silicosis among workers in the sandstone industry and screen workers on the occupational disease. Silicosis is an incurable occupational lung disease caused by the inhalation of silica dust. Out of the 82 workers that were screened 7 silicosis and 10 tuberculosis patients were detected. Furthermore, more than 500 sandstone workers were registered under the Construction Workers Welfare Scheme. Under this scheme worker are entitled to nine social security benefits, including compensation when affected by an occupational disease.
This is the story of Budhpura, a small village in Taleda Block in the Bundi District of Rajasthan. The main industry in this area is stone quarrying and the production of Sandstone setts. It’s estimated that 85% of the population in this area work in or rely on the natural stone industry for their livelihoods.
There are many yards in and around Budhpura involved in the production, grading and sorting of Sandstone setts, 25 of the largest yards came together to form the cobble traders union.
Before Manjari started to work in the area, the majority of children in Budhpura and the surrounding villages were out of school and working in the cobble yards. The sole objective of the Child Labour Free Zones Project is that all children have the right to an education and to enjoy childhood. Children were visibly working in the cobble yards around Budhpura, so engaging with the owners of the cobble yards became the prime focus for the Manjari project team.