India today has around 10 million child labourers, most of them are exposed to violence and abuse
Children’s Day in India is celebrated on November 14 as a tribute to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. Also, famously known as Chacha Nehru or Chachaji, Nehru’s love and affection for children is well known, as he once said,"The children of today will make the India of tomorrow. The way we bring them up will determine the future of the country.”
But, the future generation of our country is in a deep quandary. They live in a space that is unsafe, exploitative and unhealthy as they face threats of trafficking, sexual violence, forced labour and early marriage. India today has around 10 million child labourers, most of them are exposed to violence and abuse. Then there are the many children denied access to education, sanitation, healthcare, and food. These children are robbed of their chance to enjoy a worry-less childhood, which is to play, learn and dream the impossible.
But all is not lost, as people are coming forth to do what they can for the children of this nation. Here are four inspiring organisations that are dedicated to restoring childhood for many children robbed of it.
“For about five weeks between September 11 and October 16, tens of thousands of volunteers and I marched more than 12,000 kilometres, literally across every nook and corner of the country. For a long time, I have watched with growing anger and alarm how children are being increasingly subjected to sexual abuse in India. I know that our children are not safe anywhere. They can be raped and murdered inside their homes, in schools, in hospitals, in daycare centres and in playgrounds. The predator could be a family member, a teacher, a driver, a doctor, and even a policeman. A sense of lingering fear has crept into our society when it comes to the safety of our children”
says Kailash Satyarthi, a child rights activists and Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2014 in recognition of his work against child sexual abuse and trafficking.
Satyarthi is the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which, till date, has liberated more than 86,000 children in India from child labour, slavery and trafficking.
Many parents in Jharkhand celebrate the birth of girl child for the very reason that she could be sold or sent off to big cities as domestic help by the age of eight, where her childhood is mutilated in ways beyond imagination. Rashmi Tiwari’s Aahan Foundation is transforming lives of tribal women by imparting entrepreneurial skills, creating local livelihood programmes, and enabling community development.
“It’s sad to learn that the enormous potential of tribal girls is being ruthlessly destroyed by the greed of traffickers. Rough figures suggest that as much as 70 percent of the girls trafficked in India are tribals. It is time we wake up to this grim reality and do something to include our tribal brethren in Bharat’s growth story,” says Rashmi.
My Choices is a Hyderabad-based organisation that has been actively involved in dealing with domestic violence and human trafficking since 2012.
“When trafficked, a child can be sold for anything between Rs 5,000 and 10,000. I believe in one thing, that the girl child needs to be empowered. From 100 girls, the trafficker may take one. However, even if one of them stands up to him, 99 of them can be saved,”
says Vivian Isaac, Project Director at My Choices.
Vivian explains that poverty or necessity is not the reason why most children are trafficked. According to him, in 70 percent of the cases he has come across, the parents did not know that they were selling their children. My Choices launched Operation Red Alert in 2015, rolling out India’s first toll-free helpline for reporting cases of trafficking.
In rural Jharkhand, six out of 10 girls are forced to drop out of school early and become child brides.The State ranks among the worst in human trafficking and sanitation and throws up several challenges to the empowerment of girls and women.
“Yuwa does more than simply delay marriage until the age of 18 — we are enabling girls to break out of the cycle of poverty and make powerful decisions about their futures. Before joining, they were shy, quiet girls who mumbled responses with their eyes on the ground. After months of daily practice and affirmation in a positive social network, they became confident, bold football players who weren’t afraid to introduce themselves to strangers,”
says Franz Gastle, Founder, Yuwa. Yuwa is trying to make a difference through its programmes for girls, which aim to put their future back into their own hands.
This Children’s Day, let’s not get trapped in the rhetoric but rather work towards giving our children a much safer and healthier place to grow in.
Happy Children’s Day!