India: creating opportunities for working children
It’s estimated that there are as many as 60 million working children (under 14 years old) in India, with child domestic workers making up 20% of that.
A great number of child domestic workers found in the cities have been trafficked from villages located in some of the poorest states, including West Bengal.
To eradicate child domestic work and the trafficking of children for labour, Save the Children, in partnership with Reckitt Benckiser, is working with children, their families and communities in Kolkata and rural West Bengal.
Today I visited a Save the Children Bridge Course Centre in Kolkata. Child domestic workers from the local area attend the Bridge Centre to catch up on their education, and so they can go on to either attend government school or receive vocational training.
The children are taught for three hours a day, five days a week, by a Save the Children teacher, with some employers also teaching voluntarily. This is a huge achievement.
Save the Children have educated their employers too; a small step towards rendering child labour socially and culturally unacceptable.
Skills for life
I also visited a school where we’re using one of the vacant classrooms to teach life skills to children who have previously attended a Bridge Course Centre and are now too old for school before they start three months of vocational beautician training.
The children were so enthusiastic and excited about what they had already learnt and the training that lay ahead. They have all moved back to live with their families, as Save the Children has educated them to so they understand that their daughters will be safer and have more opportunities if they take the training on offer.
Next I visited a hair salon, where three hairdressers, trained by Save the Children and our partners, are now earning roughly £50 per month, compared with roughly £5 per month they would have been earning as child domestic workers.
More bright futures
I travelled to a village in the West Bengal Sundarbans, a couple of hours south of Kolkata, where I spent time at another Bridge Centre with children who are now receiving an education after either being identified as at risk of being trafficked, or rescued from work.
It was clear to see how happy these children were to be there, learning English, singing, and dancing (all during my brief visit!).
I met the village’s Child Protection Committee – a group of parents, and committed individuals who are working hard, with the support of Save the Children, to protect children in their village from harm, and rescue any who slip through the net.
I also visited a Vocational Training Centre where tailoring was being taught – more brighter futures!
Thank you Reckitt Benckiser for your ongoing support. Together we are helping children go to school, escape child labour and have the hope of a better future.