I have always believed that children are a country’s future. And when it comes to India, where so many kids live and breathe on the streets, doing a bit for them would go a long way in shaping the future of this world’s largest democracy.
To me, Illiteracy and Child labor are two important areas which need to be addressed, especially when it comes to a girl child. In fact, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs India have named India as the most dangerous place in the world for a girl child.
Let’s look at some of the astonishing Statistics:
· 40% of India’s population is below the age of 18 years, which at 440 million is the world’s largest child population. Every fifth child in the world is Indian.
· Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
· Out of those enrolled in school, up to half don’t attend regularly. Many are pressured to work and earn money for their families.
· Two thirds of children are victims of physical abuse. The majority are beaten in school, and over half have to work seven days a week.
· 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
· Official figures indicate there are over 17 million child workers in India, but many NGOs claim the real figure is up to 60 million.
· The largest numbers work in places like textile factories, dhabas (roadside restaurants) and hotels, or as domestic workers. Much of the work, such as in firecracker or matchstick factories, can be hazardous; even if not, conditions are often appalling and simply rob kids of their childhood.
· There are approximately 2 million child commercial sex workers between the age of 5 and 15 years and about 3.3 million between 15 and 18 years. They form 40% of the total population of commercial sex workers in India. 500,000 children are forced into this trade every year.
· By a law introduced in 2006, no child under 14 should work. But like many laws in India, the problem is enforcement. 2 years after the ban, the Labor Ministry had carried out 12,000 operations but only made 211 prosecutions.
With the hope of seeing a truly developed India in my lifetime, I would support the following achievers who have done a remarkable work in the aforementioned areas:
1. Kamlesh Zapadiya – One way for kids to study well is for them to enjoy what they read and it should be in a simple format to understand better. Kamlesh did just that by launching Edusafar, a website where entire syllabus from classes 1 to 10 is available in a Quiz format. Edusafar has all the study materials and information that one needs related to primary and secondary education. The syllabus can be downloaded free of cost from the website.
Kamlesh travels 20 kms everyday from his village to a cybercafe in a nearby town to accomplish this mission of making education interesting for students. He, along with his friends, plan to develop an app for those who are preparing for competitive exams. The app will have various general knowledge and current affairs questions from which a user can learn with just a click.
2. K S Sarojamma – Often lovingly called as ‘Amma’ by the children she rescued from Karnataka’s Silk factories.
In the silk twisting units of Magadi, thousands of children are put to work for long hours in low-lit factories. As a researcher during the 90s, Amma visited these silk mills of Magadi and was instrumental in saving the lives of over 3,000 children. Her efforts led to the shutting down of 800 out of 1,000 units.
With the realization that the young girls rescued had no homes to go back to, Saroja started ‘Chiguru Balvikas Sanstha’. The sanstha is also home to young girls who were being abused as domestic help.