Children need to be where they belong
- June 1, 2012
Whether it is in the words of Mother Teresa – “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” or in Gandhi’s, “be the change you want to see in the world”, they all start with the self. It is about taking the responsibility to change things that make us sad, uncomfortable or angry.
Every year, we mark June 12th as the Global Day against Child Labour, to reaffirm our commitment to end one of the most inhuman practices of modern times – Child Labour. A day we all ought to come together to raise our voice, to renew our pledge, and promise to care and love our children. All children. But the truth is that we end up being silent spectators to millions of young innocent lives who work, more often that not, in tough inhuman conditions.
Usually a Day is marked for celebrations and I too could give positive figures of children going to school and those being rescued from mines and factories. And we in India also have other achievements like we have eradicated some deadly diseases, have an enviable constitution, have gone beyond the moon and many such reasons to feel good. But amidst all this, we also have some facts that are shameful. One of them is that we have the highest number of child labourers in the world.
Through my human rights’ work, and also during the making of my short films on education, I have interacted with many children who don’t go to school and work in harsh environments. Their days are long and tiring, conditions difficult and unhygienic and the impact is damaging in more ways than one. The question is why are these children not at school? Most people would say- poverty. We cannot dismiss reasons where it is a question of survival, but when we go deeper, we realise that not only there are a multiplicity of reasons but also the whole issue is far more complex than we think. While poverty and population have impacts on almost all social indicators, the lack of proper schools, issues of high fertility, education levels of parents, in the name of traditional skills, need for cheap labour, and the apathy of the society, are some of the areas that need looking into.
Weknow that the process is slow and clear systems don’t exist, but at our level we can at least stand up to raise our voice against child labour. And we must not stop till we are heard, till things change.We owe this to the children of the world and to begin with, India. While most people will agree that children are the most important segment of the pyramid, but in reality we don’t give them the care they deserve. Let’s set ourselves small doable goals, and in pursuit of big dreams, let us not undermine the importance of small ones. This will not only save lives of children, but also make our own lives more meaningful.
As a mother I want the best for my child, and so is it not fair that all children, especially girls, who are lagging behind for no fault of theirs, get the best too? Children have a right to joyful childhood, to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment that is free from exploitation and abuse. Even without our help things will change, but if we want to hasten the process, and want less and less children to be exploited and abused, we have to ensure that all children are in schools and out of labour.