Two steps forward, one step backward

Last week Steven and I visited the No Child Left Behind project in Budhpura with the intention of boosting interaction between Manjari and the business community.

We had mapped more clearly the yards where our suppliers are sourcing the cobbles from and hope to improve the working conditions at these yards over time.

While I was there I had a shocking reality check: I saw three teenagers working on cobbles in a yard adjacent to the main road…out in the open. The yard had a sign in front of it declaring it as a Child Labour Free Zone. It was obviously not! I went closer and when they noticed me the boys ran away. So I talked to the adults asking why the children were there. They replied that schools were closed because of holidays and kids were “simply” surpassing time. They claimed that they were not working regularly…I explained that any form of labour at their age is unacceptable and that children should be playing, not working, when schools are closed.

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External Evaluation of the Out of Work Programme (2014 – 2017)

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  • 361 children were prevented from child labour and a whopping 593 were withdrawn from child labour, on a total of 1019 children that were initially identified as ‘out of school’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
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Creating Child Labour Free Zones: A tough but rewarding journey.

Hello, my name is Bram Callewier, Director at, a natural stone importer.  Welcome to the first part of a 6 part blog series where we talk about child labour in the stone industry.  Everyone involved in natural stone will have heard about how children are involved in its production.  The truth is that yes, they are, and especially in certain activities such as cobble making.  But what’s really happening in these remote parts of the world, far away from our professionally designed gardens, what’s the real story?  This blog aims to educate people on the root causes of child labour and to share some of the truly inspiring community led projects, working tirelessly to tackle this and other related social issues.  What you read won’t always be pretty, but we promise it will be the truth and we guarantee it will be written impartially.

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Welcome to our blog !

Welcome to our blog. Our vision: no child is left behind; meaning that no child should be working and every child has the right to a good education and the right to enjoy childhood. The Indian Sandstone cobble industry is tarnished with stories of poor working conditions, bad labour practices and endemic child labour. While these issues do exist, they are not the whole story. Local people, NGO’s and a number of companies, are working tirelessly to improve the lives of people who work in and around the natural stone industry. Numerous positive, community lead initiatives are taking place. We write this blog to share the good news stories coming out of this program: creating ’Child Labour Free Zones’ in Budhpura.

To learn more about the Child Labour Free Zone approach see:

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