Meerathe Agent of change
India, world’s second-fastest growing major economy, is also the nation with the largest child labor force in the world.
Today millions of children work as laborers in various businesses in India, robbed of their right to childhood. India, with considerable number of legal provisions against child labour, has over 4.35 million child labourers between the ages of 5–14, out of the total child population of 259.64 million in that age group, according to 2011 census of India. Indian state Uttar Pradesh holds the top position for having highest number of child labourers in country, followed by Andhra Pradesh at the second place and Rajasthan on third, accounting for nearly 10% of the total child labour in the country.
The state is not only known for its prevalent child labour issues but also for the rising numbers of child trafficking cases. Jhadol, Kotada Kherwa and Sarada block in Udaipur District in Southern Rajasthan, are among the place where major incidents of child labour and child trafficking are found. Amidst of all this, marching against the odds and raising voice against these malpractices is one teenage girl studying in class 10th – Meera Kumari, living in Galdar village, located in Jhadol Tehsil of Udaipur district in Rajasthan, India. Born to Jalam Das and Sakki Bai, marginal farmers, Meera is the youngest and luckiest one of their 6 children, as she is the only one who got an opportunity to exercise her right to education while rest had to discontinue their education. Meera has taken upon the role of a change agent, making a difference in her own way. With a confident smile, she narrates – how she gained confidence to fight against child labour and child trafficking began.
Charity begins at home, and this is where Meera began her fight against the age old practice of child labor, when she prevented her uncle from sending her cousins to Gujarat to work as child laborers. All the training and guidance from ChildFund India really paid off when she was able to counsel and convince her uncle against sending his children to work as laborers. ‘It was a very dicey situation for me. Being a child, standing against the decision of an elder family members but I remained firm and left no stone unturned to convince them’, shared Meera with pride. This enhanced her confidence level and since then there has been no looking back.
Meera, who aspires to become a teacher, has even been honored with “Prerna Award” in 2012 by ChildFund India for her extraordinary contributions to the community, for being an active member of Child Club, for attending awareness program as well as training program organized by ChildFund India towards prevention of Child Labour as well as on how to influence peer groups to not go for child labour. She has also obtained training on how to motivate children for education and made remarkable efforts to enroll children in school in her own village. “I’m really happy to receive this award. I feel privileged to be able to contribute towards rehabilitate of my village children and eradication of child labour; will keep fighting against the same,” expressed determined and strong willed Meera. ChildFund India has been conducting various activities to generate awareness against child labour and child trafficking by establishing Child Clubs, Balwadi Programs, by organizing age appropriate Training and Sensitization programs and by strengthening the School Management Committee.
After ChildFund’s interventions, there has been a 70% reduction in the cases of child labour and child trafficking in the village.