Today hit me like a truck.
I went to visit the MVF ( http://www.mvf-india.org ) Aloor Bridge course camp for girls. This is a camp for girls who used to work, either for money, or at home looking after the children.
A little background on MVF- They have pulled out atleast 300,000 children out of work, work in 13 districts in Andhra Pradesh, one district in Madhya pradesh, and one district in Assam. They are quite a low-profiled NGO. Considering the fact that their secretary Shantha Sinha won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Leadership, 2003.
It has volunteers and activists who form the core group. These people act as the mentors for all those children. Exceptional commitment to their work, and their only aim being abolishment of child labour is what drives them.
The camp that we visited has around 200 girls who are being main streamed into school. A bridge course camp is essentially what its name suggests- a camp that bridges the education that the girls should have had while they were working and the class appropriate for their ages.
The biggest problem about child labour is that it is accepted. Any social evil cannot be condemned if it is taken in and accepted as a part of their lives. There is then the classical question of if they don't work who will support their families? There exists only one answer. And the MVF anthem screams it aloud-
Vastunnam vastunnam pillalam, ee repati lokam maade maade.
The children are coming, the children are coming, tomorrow's world is ours
I dont remember exactly how it goes in telugu but it said, 'We are weaned of our mother's milk and put to work while you sat there and watched us.'
The only answer to the classic question is this- Today you might struggle, but the education of the child is what will define his life for him tomorrow. Or tomorrow, he will be just like the parents, struggling in poverty. The MVF has proved this theory of not educating the child being more of an economical barrier than sending him to work being a contribution to the family earning. And by sending the child to school, there come small investments like buying clothes, shoes, pens, ribbons which makes the child a child and the family a family.
Today was an eye opener. There is so much rebellion that goes into each one of their lives. Their bravery to stand up and say, No, We will not work, We want to study. The bravery of the volunteers to take oaths to completely abolish child labour in their vilages. The bravery of the parents to say we will work longer hours, we will struggle, but we will not watch our children stuggle like us
They rebel against their parents to say we want to study, and we rebel against our parents to drink, and smoke and do what ever else.
The biggest problem, again is acceptance. An example being the pepsi ad. The MVF rebelled againt the ad, filed a petition against pepsi and got a lot of people who said the ad was a minor mistake. They did not mean to say that child labour was right. A lot of people who said child labour exists. Accept it, that is what the world is like. If you did accept it, those children would have no hope of a future.
In the words of those children,
Balyam Pillala Hakku.
(Childhood is a child's right)
And to think, I have nine more days of visiting them.
Today hit me like a truck.