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Ending child labour and child endangerment by empowering communities with a sense of agency.

Tabasum Parveen aged 14 years; her daily schedule was something like helping her mother at home with chores, accompanying the parents to mica mines for work, and then attending the local Madarasa (religious educational institution). This life came about due to her parent’s financial situation. Her educational knowledge was rather low when compared to others of her age and the present educational stream was inadequate for the regular academic syllabus.

Many children like Tabasum are pushed into child labour to support their family’s financial situation or this is the only option available to them. In the last two years with the economic world being hit, it has been reported by ILO and UNICEF that 9 million additional children are at risk as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide. The progress to end child labour has staggered for the first time in 2 decades.

In Jharkhand, the infamous mica mines came back into the picture and started drawing children in for hard labour along with their parents. Hand in Hand India has been working in the deep interiors of Jharkhand to ensure that no child is out of school and that they are certainly not engrossed in the depth of a mica mine.

Where it all began…

It all started 17 years ago when 5 little hamlets in the Melkottivakkam Panchayat in the Kanchipuram District of Tamil Nadu were declared to be Child-Friendly Villages. Our Child Labour Elimination and Education Programme mobilisers identified 28 children in the panchayat out of school. Out of the lot, 20 were school dropouts and 8 were working as child labours in the local brick kiln. The rigorous motivation, awareness, and continuous counselling of the team led to the inception of the first Child-Friendly Panchayat/Villages under Hand in Hand India.

With over 1000 Child-Friendly Panchayats under our umbrella, Hand in Hand India has now dared to step foot into the territories of Jharkhand riddled with Mica mines. The mines are known to be a job opportunity that most choose and eventually have their children drawn into it as well.

What makes a village/panchayat, child friendly?

A village with every child (6-18 years) in school, pursuing a proper education along with the active participation of the community is declared as a Child-Friendly Village/ Panchayat (CFV). The major players in ensuring the successful transformation of a village to a CFV are the mobilisers and the Child Rights Protection Committee (CRPC), as they monitor the children’s education and retain them in schools.

The mobilisers track the villages and go about surveying every household in a village panchayat taking note of every child's current education status. They then set about in a series of awareness programs motivating, convincing, and counselling the parents to have their children receive a proper and quality education. Now, this is the most difficult part, for someone you have never known to do something. But, our mobilisers at HiH India are known to be determined and adamant in overcoming difficult situations.

Once the parents are convinced through the rigorous mobilisation and follow-ups, we immediately have the children enrolled in a Children Learning Centre to help them make up their lost time in education and then mainstream them into the local government schools. The progress of the children is regularly monitored by the CRPC as well as the mobilisers. We would like to ensure that the children in school stay in school and are not side-tracked by anyone or anything.

Seeping into the rural

In the Koderma district of Jharkhand, we focused on identifying the children who had dropped out of school and those who worked in the mica mines of the region along with their parents. Sensitisation, awareness, and social mobilisation programs were immediately started in the region by our mobilisers. We started with the teachers, panchayat representatives, district government officials, and more importantly the parents of the children. The team then moved forward to engaging the children in various education and extra-curricular activities for greater visibility.

Children like Tabasum were identified through door-to-door surveys and monitoring. The most common reason for the children to drop out of school was the financial instability of the parents. So to ensure this loss doesn’t affect the right to education, the children were provided scholarships, books, stationery, bags, and all the learning materials required to ensure that they are back at school. The team also set up CLCs in the region to help those who have had a major break and are lagging, thus helping them catch up to the age-appropriate education.

Tabasum was one among the lot to receive this scholarship. She was enrolled in a CLC before being mainstreamed into a govt. school. As noted by the teachers, Tabasum was a natural; she quickly caught up to the syllabus and started scoring well at school while also taking part in the extracurricular, shining throughout.

The friendly approach

The team stepped into Koderma intending to turn 50 villages in the region into Child-Friendly Villages. We are now off to a good with 6 villages already declared as CFVs. Our mobilisers Identified 217 children who were either school dropouts or child labours and had them enrolled in CLCs (bridge schools) and the government school. We ensured that not one child in the villages are out of school. Every child’s dream and education matter.

In the process of declaring a Child-Friendly Village, the team conducted 879 social mobilisation/awareness meetings; run 6 CLCs and enrolled 178 children; offered 47 scholarships and cultivated 12 community teachers, thus creating jobs along the way; conducted 9 medical camps through which 53 children were recovered from malnutrition; 2341 community members were reached out through our interventions and last but not the least 100% student involvement in education was achieved.

This is just the stepping stone in the long-term plan for ridding all the mica mines in Jharkhand of the child labourers and in ensuring that not one child between the ages of 6-18yrs is out of school and forging education. Hand in Hand India through its interventions has declared 1,145 panchayats as Child-Friendly Panchayats to date and this number is not going to stop growing.

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