Four former child labourers, including three from Rajasthan, made 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. More than 4,000 delegates are participating in the event.
"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, Child labour survivor and activist, while addressing the conference.
Tara 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. 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," said Amar Lal, the second speaker, in his address.
Amar too belongs to the Banjara community in Rajasthan. He worked in a stone quarry with his father at the age of six. Amar was rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) and was brought to Bal Ashram co-founded by Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and his wife Sumedha Kailash.
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.
Rajesh was another child labour rescued from a brick kiln in Jaipur. He then attended school at Bal Ashram and after completing his Bachelor’s degree in Electronics from Delhi University, he is currently pursuing an MBA in Finance from Udaipur University.
"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 in collapsed during heavy rain and he was rescued from debris by the local community.
In 2013, Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation selected Kanichihar village as Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) or Child-Friendly Village. Badaku 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.