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 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.
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.
Hello, I’m Steven Walley, managing director of London Stone. I recently returned from a trip to Budhpura where I met some of the driving forces behind the project we are supporting to create child labour free zones in Budhpura.
The project to create child labour free zones in Budhpura enjoys wide ranging support from a range of different stakeholders. Western corporate companies like Stoneasy and London Stone, Western NGO’s, Stop Child Labour and ICN, and local NGO’s in India like Manjari and ARAVALI. Without these multi stakeholder groups it would simply not be possible to deliver lasting change in Budhpura. These organisation provide expertise, leverage, funds and motivation that are not always available locally. These external groups though only tell one side of the story. What about all the people who live within the project area, who are a part of the local community and whom this project is having a positive effect on? To these people, Child Labour Free Zones (CLFZ) is far more than just an ethical project, it’s their lives.
Hello, My name is Steven Walley, I’m the Managing Director of London Stone, a UK based natural stone importer and supplier.
No Child Left Behind is a 6 part blog series, written to educate and inform the industry about the root causes of child labour in the Indian Sandstone industry. The blog also aims to raise awareness of the amazing community led initiatives that are slowly succeeding in eradicating child labour in Budhpura and the surrounding villages and hamlets, where the majority of Sandstone Setts, destined for UK and European markets, are produced.
Last month you heard from Bram Callewier, Director of Belgium based stone importer, Stoneasy. Bram’s informative blog talked about the historical context of how western companies got involved in the Indian Sandstone industry and how little our understanding was of ethical issues in those “early days”. You’re now reading part 2 of the 6 part series. I’m going to be talking about Manjari. Manjari are the Budhpura based NGO playing a pivotal role in establishing child labour free zones in Budhpura and the surrounding villages & hamlets. But first, before we go any further we need to understand the complexity of the root causes of child labour.