Four children, including a first-generation learner from a nomadic community and three former child labourers, did themselves and the country proud by representing India in the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour. The event is being organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the government of South Africa from May 15 to May 20 in Durban.
“Does being poor mean that we will be forced to work as child labourers? Every child has an equal opportunity for education and it is the responsibility of every individual to prevent multiple forms of child exploitation,” said Tara Banjara, while addressing the conference.
She belongs to the Banjara community in Rajasthan. Till the age of eight years, she worked as a helper in road construction and cleaning. But, defying all odds, she became the first child in the community to pass the matriculation exam and pursue senior secondary education. Now she is enrolled in college and hopes to become a police officer.
Tara has been raising awareness in her community against child labour, child trafficking and child marriage. She prevented her younger sister’s child marriage and convinced her family to send her sister to school. Thanks to her efforts, more than 22 children from the nomadic communities are in school. At present, there is no child labour and child marriage in her community.
Tara is supported by Bal Mitra Gram (BMG), a child-friendly village, initiated by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation.
“Although governments across the globe spend billions on war, pertinent issues, such as health and education of children are placed on the backburner. To benefit from the child-friendly laws and regulations, more efforts are required in their implementation. I hope that governments across the globe prioritize the voice of children,” said Amar Lal, the second speaker, in his address. He too belongs to the Banjara community in Rajasthan.
To support his family’s income, Amar Lal worked in a stone quarry with his father at the age of 6. During a raid conducted at the stone quarry, he was rescued by Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation’s sister organisation Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) and brought to Bal Ashram. Bal Ashram was co-founded by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and his wife Sumedha Kailash in 1998 as a model rehabilitation centre, for children rescued from child labour, child slavery and child trafficking.
After completing senior secondary education, Amar Lal pursued legal studies in college. Currently, he is working as a child rights lawyer and activist.
“I have come here to talk about scores of children who are languishing in forced labour and still await a safe and healthy childhood. Together, we can eradicate child labour,” said Rajesh Jatav from Rajasthan while participating in the conference.
Education for Rajesh was a distant dream as he had to work for 18 hours a day at a brick kiln in Jaipur. Rescued at the age of eight years, Rajesh then attended school at Bal Ashram. In 2020, he completed his Bachelor’s degree in Electronics from Delhi Univessssrsity and is currently pursuing an MBA in Finance from Udaipur University.
” I am extremely proud to represent thousands of children, who despite suffering the trauma of forced child labour, are now able to build a better future by pursuing education. Working in Mica mines was a painful experience and I urge all participants to create a world where no one is bereft of education and happy childhood,” said Badaku Marandi at the event. He is scheduled to make a speech later this week.
Badaku Marandi is a child labour survivor and emerging change-maker in the mica mining belt of Jharkhand state. A resident of Kanichihar village in Tisri block of Giridih district, his father passed away when he was five. He along with his mother Rajina Kisku then started working in the Mica mine to eke out a living.
In 2012, the mine he was working on collapsed during heavy rain, and he was rescued from debris by the local community. Two people, including Badku’s friend, died in the accident. Badaku’s eye was infected by an injury sustained from the accident, and later, he lost his vision in one eye.
Though he survived the accident and loss of vision, Badaku was shattered by the death of his friend.
In 2013, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation selected Kanichiharvillage as Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) or Child-Friendly Village. Badku was enrolled in school the same year and became the first individual in his village to pass the matriculation exam. He was also elected the head of the bal panchayat and now works as an active member of BMG. An initiative of KSCF, Bal Mitra Gram is a one-stop solution for holistic child protection and works for preventing various forms of child exploitation, such as child trafficking, child labour and child marriage, right at its source.
More than 4,000 delegates are participating in the event scheduled from May 15 to May 20. According to UN estimates, 160 million children–around 1 in every 10 children globally–are working as child labourers. The event is being organised at a critical time when there are only three years left to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of eliminating child labour.