Indian sandstone’s alter ego: Polycaro visits India

By now, most actors in the natural stone sector have gotten acquainted with the Initiatief TruStone. In 2019, Flanders and the Netherlands joined forces and founded a multi-stakeholder initiative with a responsible procurement policy for sourcing natural stone from high-risk areas, supported by governments, companies, NGOs and unions. Chain transparency and care is the common thread throughout this story.

Not always obvious, but not impossible either. After all, bundled strength results in more impact. To truly understand what this is about, there is the following advice: Go see for yourself, with your own eyes, on location, where you, as a company, buy your materials from. Start the dialogue with local suppliers and search for solutions that aid all parties.

Indian sandstone is used to furnish many driveways, streets, and village squares throughout Belgium, but also in England, France, and the Netherlands many people love this product. This is because the Indian Kandla cobble stones are a great alternative to the Belgian Grès du Condroz. The reason? Very simple: Kandla cobble stones are cheaper and have shorter delivery times for any required quantity. A dream scenario for many and especially for tendering governments. Or is it?

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No Child Left Behind: New Funding To Improve Life For Home Workers

The continued funding of the No Child Left Behind initiative is essential for progress to continue. Here we look at why the funding is so important to the continued good work of the scheme.

No Child Left Behind, the project supported by Stoneasy & London Stone which aims to eradicate child labour in Budhpura, Rajasthan, India, is celebrating; the Dutch government has awarded funding for the next five years.

It’s a significant step forward, allowing the project to expand the solid base it has established. “They’ve given enough funding,” says London Stone Managing Director Steven Walley, “to help improvement in measured steps.”

Budhpura is in the major cobble-stone manufacturing area of Rajasthan and the obstacles to eradicating child labour completely are multiple, making a simple solution impossible. In a previous article, The NGO Playing a Central Role in Eradicating Child Labour in Budhpura, London Stone MD, Steven Walley, recounts how he thought he had the answer to eradicating a major health issue, only to realise how truly sustainable solutions need a thoroughly holistic approach.

The problems that result in child labour are thickly entwined. Limited educational facilities, discrimination, lack of fresh drinking water, health problems, migration, wages, working conditions – all of these, and more, mesh together to make one simple solution impossible.

The answer is to keep the endpoint in sight, and the aim of No Child Left Behind is to eradicate child labour in the district. Huge strides have been made in improving education, as we reported in Number Of Teachers Key To Tackling Creating Child Labour Free Zones, which means families can see much more point to children being in school. Self-help groups are helping to give women choices in their lives and improve their health.

So far, the project has concentrated on improving working conditions in the cobble yards and as a result of this good work, child labour in the yards is almost non-existent.  Now, with the new input of funding, one of the additional aims is to increase the scope of the project to improve the situation of the homeworkers. For reasons of convenience a large proportion of Sandstone cobbles are produced in backyards and on common ground. “It’s a very large community of workers,” says Steven. “and the expanded scope of the project will look to improve their working conditions too.” Much of the work involves finding the people affected, talking to them, making sure they have the benefits they’re entitled to from the government, and ensuring there’s structure to the work they do. One of the measures that can be taken is to ensure that homeworkers have pass books to record the volume of their piece work.

None of this would be possible if the community hadn’t absolutely embraced the project. Alongside seeking-out home workers, Manjari will continue working to bring standards up in a number of the current cobble yards to make them into ‘model yards’. With male and female toilets, maternity pay, adequate shade, fresh drinking water and, if possible, a creche, these will provide the template for other yards. Better facilities are likely to encourage home workers to want to work there.

“It feels like just the beginning; a drop in the ocean compared with the wider industry,” says Steve. “But the first five years are the hardest. Now with funding in place and all the people in place, we have a plan to increase the speed at which changes are made.” To find out more about the creation of the Budhpura Child-Free Labour Zone and how improvements have made an enormous difference across the community in the past six years, take a look at Celebrating Budhpura!

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Number Of Teachers Key To Tackling Creating Child Labour Free Zones

Number Of Teachers Key To Tackling Creating Child Labour Free Zones – London Stone Managing Director Steve Walley tells us about this important issue

Child labour is a complex issue but it is only when you start working on trying to address the issue that you begin to understand just how complex it is. In the UK and Europe, we take for granted how good our education system is. We expect that when our children attend school there will be teachers present to teach them. The situation is very different in Budhpura, India. Before we go any further, a re-cap about the project we are working on to create child labour free zones in Budhpura.

Budhpura is a rural village in the state of Rajasthan, India, and one of the main sourcing regions for Indian Sandstone.  More specifically, Budhpura is widely known as being the key sourcing region for Sandstone cobbles (setts) and due to the nature of cobble production this makes the whole region particularly vulnerable to child labour.

An exciting project has been underway in Budhpura since 2015.  A group of NGO’s and private businesses (The Stop Child Labour Campaign, ARAVALI, Manjari, ICN, Belgium Stone importer, Stoneasy and UK based landscape materials importer, London Stone) came together with a simple mission; to eradicate Child labour in Budhpura.

The project has made lots of progress.  In the last 3 years, hundreds of children have been taken out of child labour and enrolled into formal education.  There’s a long road ahead though, and the whole project team are under no illusions that after three years of hard work we are still only scratching the surface as to the extent of this problem.

One of the biggest issues the project and the community have faced is a severe lack of quality teachers.  Manjari are the local NGO working on the ground in Budhpura and one of their key roles is to talk to the community and cajole and convince parents to the benefits of getting their children to attend school.  It doesn’t matter how good a job Manjari do though, if when the children get to school there are no teachers present to teach them. The parents of the children will lose their incentive. It is a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario and given this climate it is easy to see why children then disappear between the cracks and slip into child labour.

The lack of quality teachers has been a huge barrier to progress for this project, so we are ecstatic to be able to share some amazing news with you.  After years of lobbying at different levels of local Indian Government we have finally secured a large influx of teachers to come and work at some of the local Budhpura schools. We’ve produced a simple table a comparison of teacher numbers from Spring to Autumn 2018.  The numbers have almost doubled, clearly demonstrating the fantastic progress we have made:

Name of School No of Teachers as of 10.04.2018 No of Teachers as of 10.10.2018 % Increase
1 Budhpura Choraha 04 08 100%
2 Bhilon ka Jhopda 01 02 100%
3 Dhorela 01 02 100%
4 Parana Gurjar 01 02 100%
5 Parana Karado 01 02 100%
6 Parana Ramdev 01 02 100%
7 Budhpura Gaon 04 07 75%
Overall Total 13 25 92%

Doubling the number of teachers in local schools is a massive achievement for the project and represents a huge step forward for the reliability and quality of education available in Budhpura.  It must have been extremely demoralising for Manjari to see all their efforts of lobbying the community go to waste because the schools could not provide the number of teachers required. This development can only strengthen Manajaris hand when talking to the parents of local children. This whole project is about breaking down barriers to progress and by doubling the number of teachers in Budhpura we have removed a huge barrier to children attending school.  Stay posted for further progress updates in due course.

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Rajender, a teacher’s story

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”.

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Embroidery Courses Empowering the Women of Budhpura

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.

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