I’ve travelled to India on numerous occasions over the last 10 years and it’s fair to say that on each visit, I gain further insight into the supply chain. Since leaving the ETI and joining the CLFZ (Child Labour Free Zones) project London Stone’s visits to India have been solely focussed on working with the local community to make child labour a thing of the past in Budhpura.
Whilst being extremely rewarding the project has also been a huge challenge for everyone involved. Now 3 years in we are starting to see real, on the ground progress, none more so than after a recent visit which has left me feeling inspired and given me a deeper understanding of the community, its social structures, the problems it faces and of course, the solutions.
How did I get this deeper understanding? By walking. Walking the supply continuously until all the questions in my mind were answered. Such a valuable exercise, I had spent time walking the supply chain on my previous visit but this time, I delved a lot deeper. It was while walking and mentally mapping out the supply chain that I realised of the tiers within a tier. Let me explain!
Rajender is a school teacher at the primary school in one of the hamlets surrounding Budhpura. Almost 30 children in class are paying great attention to what he writes on the school board. “So much has happened here over the past few years”, he says, “around four years ago almost no child came to school”. The most important reasons? Parent’s lack of awareness about the importance of education and the lack of good quality schools.
Local ngo Manjari went into the hamlets to reach out to parents and to improve the access to education and its quality. With success: nowadays 90% of children from this hamlet goes to school and the schools have improved facilities. “A good education means a chance of getting a better job and consequently a better future for these children”, says Rajender, “that’s well worth committing myself to”.
Manjari have just organised 5 days stitching training for a group of 20 local young women and girls. The stitching training was carried out at the Manjari headquarters in Budhpura .
The feedback for the participants was that they enjoyed the training and are very keen to learn more. The participants have been asked to practice the skills that they have learnt in preparation for some advanced stitching training which is again to be organised by the Manajri team.
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