A key driver of supply chain improvements will always be the private sector. Intelligent entrepreneurs will look for ways to find wins for all stakeholders. This is Bhagwan’s story.
Trade and investment in the Natural Stone Sector offer’s great potential for generating income, growth, prosperity, sustaining livelihoods and fostering local development. Under the “Getting Down to Business” project Stop Child Labour, through Manjari (A local CSO), began working with local businesses to protect the human rights of families engaged in the processing of natural stone.
Mr. Bhagwan Das has been manufacturing Sandstone Cobbles in the Budhpura area of the Bundi district of Rajasthan for the past 20 years. His father moved here when Bhagwan Das was only 2 years old. His father started a Paan (Beetle) shop in Budhpura to earn his livelihood. Due to his family conditions Bhagwan left education at the 6th grade. Initially, he started a grocery shop but he was keen to explore other avenues to increase his family income. He decided to establish a business producing sandstone cobbles. The business flourished and he established one of the largest cobble yards in Budhpura employing around 300 male/female workers.
Our project to Create Child Labour Zones in Budhpura is touching the lives of real people. This is Peeru’s story
Peeru is 10 years old and belongs to Bheel (Schedule tribe) community, residing in Patiyal village in Budhpura. Even though Peeru’s father works in the natural stone mines and his mother makes Sandstone cobbles, their combined income was not enough to meet the family needs. To bring in more money Peeru and his siblings, despite being enrolled in school, were sent to work in the family cattle grazing business. For the family, earning additional income from livestock was more important than education.
Education Volunteers of Manjari, local partners of Stop Child Labor (SCL) play an important role motivating children and their parents to attend school.
One day an education volunteer visited Peeru’s house to find out why his parents were not making him attend school. His father said that the money from cattle grazing was more important than education. The Manjari volunteers didn’t give up and kept on meeting the family trying to convince them to send Peeru to school. Finally, they agreed to send Peeru to a motivation center located in Patiyal village. Attending the motivational center was a whole new experience for Peeru where he was finally given the space to play and interact with other children. Peeru also learned other basic things like the alphabet and poems. Peeru thrived in this new environment and never missing a class became happier and more confident. Witnessing the positive change in their son’s behavior, they finally understood the significance that education could play in their family’s life. They sold all their cattle and enrolled Peeru in full time education
Peeru is now studying in class 3rd at a Government Primary School at Budhpura. Now they send Peeru’s younger brother to the same motivation center, so that he can also gradually transition into formal education.
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.