Stories of Change

Once A Child Labourer, 15-Year-Old Girl Dreams To Become A Social Activist

15-Year-Old Sangeeta’s life changed after her father’s sudden demise, who was the only earning member of the family. She had to begin accompanying her mother for collecting mica scraps for a living.

Given the circumstances, Sangeeta had to drop out of school as most of her time went into mica scavenging and household chores.

However, the Mukhiya of the Bal Panchayat of her BMG in Giridih, Jharkhand, Khusboo Kumari got to know about Sangeeta’s situation and immediately raised the issue in the weekly meeting of the Bal Panchayat. The Bal Panchayat members then visited Sangeeta and her family and persuaded them to send Sangeeta to school instead of the mines.

Sangeeta’s mother told the activists that she had no option but to take her daughter to the mines as their financial condition was terrible and they could only feed themselves by selling mica scraps. She also expressed that she has the desire to get Sangeeta educated, but cannot afford to send her daughter to any private school.

After the conversation, the BMG activist assured Sangeeta’s mother that she would no longer have to leave her education and go for mica scavenging as they will assist in getting her admitted to KGBV school. The Bal Panchayat members also convinced the mother to not take Sangeeta to the mines anymore.

The BMG team then applied for Sangeeta's admission in KGBV, Jainagar, Koderma. Sangeeta got admission to KGBV in December 2021. She is now regular at school and her mother is delighted to see her daughter resume her studies.

Sangeeta dreams of becoming a social activist after completing her education and wishes to support orphans and poor children like her and change their lives for the better.

Bal Panchayat Rescues 8 Children from Mica Mines

17-year-old Pannalal Kumar is a class 10th student in Baswariya village. He used to work in mica mines to support his family while studying in school. When the Bal Panchayat was being formed in the village, Pannalal was elected as the Mukhiya of the Bal Panchayat. As Mukhiya, he worked actively to ensure that the children of his village do not indulge in any form of labour.

During the Covid lockdown, children from his village who completed their 5th class in primary school did not continue their education. Due to the loss of income during the pandemic, instead of continuing their education, these children were forced to support their families by working with them in the mines.

Pannalal and members of the Bal Panchayat went to meet these children’s families along with KSCF activists. These parents were told that education is the only weapon that will help them come out of poverty. They were also cautioned that child labour is a crime and there are strict provisions in the law for this. After persuading the families with the help of the KSCF team, Pannalal and other Bal Panchayat members got eight children - who left their studies and were forced into child labour - enrolled in the school.

In the leadership of Pannalal, today all these children are enrolled in school, are well aware of their rights and are free from the clutches of child labour. Now Pannalal and his Panchayat members hold regular meetings of Bal Panchayat to keep themselves updated about the current situation of the children of their village.

Besides this, Pannalal and the members of Bal Panchayat actively spread awareness regarding the Covid vaccination among the villagers. They go door-to-door and urg people to take vaccine shots as soon as possible.

Bal Panchayat’s Effort Foils Child Marriage of 15-Year-Old Girl

KSCF 's vision of transforming villages into Bal Mitra Grams (Child-friendly villages) is turning into reality. Empowered and sensitized about child rights, Bal Panchayat foils child marriage amidst the Anti-Child Marriage Campaign in the BMGs.

Duliakram is a follow-up BMG in Jharkhand's Giridih district. Continuous efforts have been made to sensitize children and villagers about child rights by the BMG team through regular meetings, campaigns, capacity building workshops, etc., since the day the village was adopted under the BMG programme. Bal Panchayat elections happened and children were inculcated with democratic ideas and empowered to voice against different forms of exploitation prevalent in the society.

In March, a month-long campaign against child marriage was launched by KSCF in the BMGs of Jharkhand. The campaign was led by Bal Panchayats & different stakeholder groups in their respective BMGs. From marching in the entire village holding placards and shouting Anti-Child marriage slogans to signature campaign, no stones were left unturned to spread awareness against child marriage as March marks the beginning of the wedding season in India. Amidst the campaign the Bal Panchayat children of BMG Duliakram got information that Nikhat Parveen, a 15-year-old girl was to be married off, although she has not yet attained the legal age of marriage. The Bal Panchayat went to Nikhat's house and tried to persuade the family to call off the marriage. Continuous efforts were put in to convince the family for a week but instead the situation worsened and the children were ill-treated by the family members of Nikhat.

When the Bal Panchayat realized that the situation needed interference from the BMG team, the BMG team along with Childline (1098) was apprised of the situation. KSCF & Childline went to Nikhat's house and an inquiry was done by the officials of Childline & a report was submitted to the Block Development Officer (BDO) who is the nodal officer in cases of child marriage.

On the 24th of March, the BDO, Circle Officer (CO) & Officer-in-charge of Police station contacted KSCF's District Coordinator of Giridih to accompany them to the girl's house whose marriage was to be prevented from being solemnized as they believed that the villagers can only be persuaded with the help of the BMG team since they have been working actively in the area from a long period and have established a close rapport with the locals. Eventually, with the joint efforts of the BDO, Police & KSCF the child marriage of the 15-year-old was prevented by persuading the family. However, the Childline did not turn up at the spot anticipating the situation in the village. The BDO also issued a notice to the family that if in any case the marriage of the girl is performed before she attains the legal age of marriage, penal actions will be taken against the family member. The family called off the marriage and testified the necessary documents of the girl in KSCF's office which was then forwarded to the BDO.

The efforts & courage of the Bal Panchayat and the BMG team was praised by the block administration. Further, the BDO ensured to work jointly with KSCF in protecting children from every form of exploitation and creating a child-friendly block.

Stars In Her Eyes, Champa Kumari Shines Bright In Board Examinations

Change maker in her own right, Champa Kumari from Jharkhand’s Giridih- an active member of Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation’s (KSCF) Bal Mitra Gram™ initiative– has achieved yet another stellar feat on the academic front.

Champa secured 80.8 per cent marks in her Class 10 Board examinations, has made her parents and the whole community proud. Recipient of the prestigious Diana Award, Champa is the Vice President of National Maha Bal Panchayat (or Children’s Parliament).

Champa was just 12-year-old when she was rescued from a mica mine in Giridih by KSCF’s sister organization Bachpan Bachao Andolan. She always dreamt of pursuing education and standing on her feet but there was stiff resistance from her father who saw no value in educating a girl child. Her brothers were however on her side and stood up for her. With KSCF’s help she was enrolled in school.

Over the years, she emerged as a true changemaker. School opened her eyes to the world and to new experiences. She soon started participating in the meetings held by the Bal Mitra Gram™ of her village where children her age discussed issues affecting them. Child marriage was rampant in her village and the very fact that girls had to give up on education and forced into marriage troubled her from within. She resolved to put an end to this.

She began with campaigns and rallies and helped stop two child marriages. Over the years, she emerged as a changemaker in and through her work she reached over 9000 people and was elected as the Vice President of NMBP in 2017. She also presented Children’s Manifesto to the British High Commissioner and Parliamentarians besides sharing the stage with the then Chief Minister of Jharkhand Raghubar Das and Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi for the cause of making mica supply chain child labour free in Giridih district.

Champa’s perseverance has had a cascading effect on her community and has helped build a brighter future for young girls across the region. She won the Diana Award in April 2019 for being a crusader against violence and exploitation against children and was also felicitated by Jharkhand Governor.

From a to-be-child bride to ambassador against child marriage

A resident of Madhuban panchayat in Jharkhand’s Koderma district, 16-year-old Radha has not only saved herself from child marriage but has become a role model for many others girls who are married against their will after she went against her own parents and family and notified Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) and authorities, concerned about her impending marriage and was successful in stopping it on time.

Radha’s father, who is the village priest, had fixed her marriage with a boy from the neighbouring village. The marriage ceremony was fixed for June 23. Head of the Bal Panchayat of Tikait Tola – a Bal Mitra Gram under KSCF – Radha was fully aware of her rights and knew that child marriage is illegal.

She requested her parents to stop the marriage saying that she wanted to continue with her studies and that child marriage is illegal but failed to convince her parents. Spearheading the movement in her community against child marriage, child abuse and child trafficking, she reached out to KSCF activists after a meeting with other members of the Bal Panchayat.

A KSCF team immediately went to her place and pressed upon her parents to call off the marriage but they refused to pay any heed. Determined to fight till the end, Radha then called up her prospective groom’s father and urged him to call off the marriage or else be prepared to face action since the police would be informed.

On July 3, Koderma Deputy Commissioner (DC) Ramesh Gholap met Radha and felicitated her. He also declared Radha as the Brand Ambassador of Koderma district against child marriage. He also sanctioned Rs 2000 per month for Radha under the government’s ‘Mukhyamantri Sukanya’ scheme. Additionally, Radha’s family was also bridged with the various government schemes including ration card, Golden Card for free medical treatment and old age pension to Radha’s father of Rs. 1000 per month.

The DC instructed also officers of the WCD department to conduct an awareness campaign on the issue of child marriage in collaboration with the KSCF team.

Marking this great success story, Mr. Omprakash Pal, Director, KSCF said “As the schools have been closed for a long time due to lockdown, the incidents of child marriage and child labour are increasing rapidly in the villages of Mica region. Child marriage and child labour" campaigns are being conducted in villages under the leadership of Child Panchayats to increase social awareness about the dangers of child marriage. During this, 21 child marriages were stopped in the last three months with the joint initiative of the children of Child Panchayat, administration and the village panchayats.”

Grit, Perseverance and Passion: Bal Panchayats prove that nothing is impossible

The West Pihra Panchayat had one senior secondary government school for the children of Neemadhi and other nearby villages. Inadequate public transport and inaccessible terrain was not the only issue that 910 children of this school had to face. Since their village was in a remote location, one teacher was appointed for all the children from the 9th to 12th standard. The quality of education was at an all time low but the community had no other option.

Nisha, a 16 year old passionate adolescent girl was impatient for change in the running of the local school. She couldn’t watch as girls remained out of school due to the lack of a female teacher. She held discussions with other children in her school and with Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF)’s help, she became a member of Bal Panchayat (children’s council). Nisha and her peers started meeting parents and other community members to discuss the problem.

Adult community members of the panchayat extended their support to children’s endeavour and collectively approached the District Magistrate (DM) to file a complaint. The children diligently followed up with the DM. They submitted an application to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in one of its public hearings in August 2019 and invoked their right to quality education.

Moved by the children’s courage and their passion for education, the DM worked with the Education Department. In a week after the meeting with the DM, the Education Department appointed four teachers in the school. The Bal Panchayat did not stop here. Buoyed by their initial success, they continued pursuing their case with tenacity for two years to ensure appointment of more teachers. By the end of July 2018, four additional teachers were appointed in the school. In January 2019 and July 2019, four teachers and three teachers respectively were appointed to their school. In October 2019, on the order of NCPCR a female teacher was appointed in the school. The perseverance of the Bal Panchayat ensured the appointment of a total of 16 teachers in the school between December 2017 to October 2019.

Today, Nisha, President, Bal Panchayat, Neemadhi Village beams with pride when she talks about the improved quality of education in her school. She says, “The appointment of teachers has been beneficial especially the presence of a female teacher. There are some things which we are only comfortable about discussing with a female teacher. No matter how many male teachers are appointed, if we have at least one female teacher in the school, we girls feel secure and comfortable”.

Children lead the change

The story of Parshabad village, one of the remotest villages in Koderma district of Jharkhand tells us how the shackles of discrimination can be broken when children come together to demand their rights. The Valmiki community, children and adults alike, had to grapple with caste-based discrimination every day. Public spaces like the local government school were not free from it. Children from the Valmiki community were not permitted to attend Saraswati Puja (a Hindu festival) held in the school for many years. This behaviour was normalized and nobody dared to raise questions.

The Bal Panchayat, an elected children’s council in a Bal Mitra Gram (BMG™), decided that they could no longer tolerate this discrimination. With the help of BMG™ social workers they devised a plan. They began meeting school teachers, school management committees and parents to garner support for their fight for equality. After several conversations, teachers decided to include children from all communities in Saraswati Puja. However, within a short span of time, the children hit a roadblock as the principal continued caste-based discrimination and refused to allow the festival prayers to continue.

Undeterred, the children reached out to women and other progressive community members to collectively approach the Block Development Officer (BDO) and District Superintendent of Education Officer (DSEO). They filed a complaint against the school Principal and after an internal investigation, the Principal was transferred. Parshabad has now become a model village where discrimination is not tolerated. The children have since then worked to ensure that every child in their community goes to school. They are proud to call Parshabad a child-friendly village.

From mica mine worker to child rights activist

Champa Kumari was 12 years old when she was rescued from a mica mine in Jharkhand by our sister organisation, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA).

Stars in her eyes, she wanted to study, but her father was against it. However, her brothers supported her and we helped her enrol in school. Currently, she is the Vice President of National Maha Bal Panchayat.

She works with local authorities to eradicate child labour and prevent child marriage in her village. Her direct intervention led to the stopping of two child marriages, despite threats from community leaders. So far, her work has reached more than 9,000 people and Jamdar village has changed for the better. Champa’s acts of defiance have created a ripple effect throughout her community, helping to build a more positive future for young girls across the region. In April 2019 Champa Kumari was awarded the Diana Award for being a crusader against violence and exploitation of children and was felicitated by the Governor of Jharkhand.

From Mica Mining In Rat Holes To An Educator Changing Lives Of Children

Crawling through the hazardous tunnels of mica mines in Jharkhand, Neeraj risked his life every single day to collect mica scrap which earned him a paltry sum of Rs 5 per kilogram. Risk notwithstanding, there was virtually no choice for Neeraj. The acute financial crunch his family was going through left his parents with little option but to send him out to the hell holes every single day to eke out a living.

Thanks to the timely intervention of our activists working tirelessly to rescue children from working in these death traps, Neeraj was rescued in 2011. Neeraj wasn’t alone. There were other children too in Duliakaram village of Jharkhand’s Giridih district who were forced into working in the mica mines. Realising the gravity of the problem in hand, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation initiated its flagship Bal Mitra Gram™ (BMG ™) programme to bring about a change in the village.

Along with other children, Neeraj was enrolled in the local primary school. The young minds thrived in this new environment where they understood the importance of education. Neeraj vowed to stop and prevent other children from facing the same fate he did.

Influenced by the work and efforts of our founder, Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, Neeraj established ‘Kailash Satyarthi Public School’ in his village, which acted as a bridge school aimed at getting children who were forced to drop out of school get reintegrated in traditional schools post intensive tutoring. At present, the school works with 150 children.

Through Neeraj’s constant pursuit in changing mindsets and the support of the local community, Duliakaram was declared a child friendly village, with no reported cases of exploitation and abuse of children. Simultaneously is his pursuing his Bachelors degree from Bachelors of Arts from IGNOU Open University.

Presently, the president of Yuva Mandal or the local youth group, Neeraj is not just a role model for children in his village but also a support system for the entire community. From getting people linked to government schemes like old age and widow pension, to ensuring installation of hand pumps and facilitating electricity and LPG supply for villagers; Neeraj ensures that his community receives government entitlements on time.

Recognising his selfless work towards the upliftment of his village and the local community, Neeraj was conferred with the United Kingdom’s prestigious Diana Award on July 1, 2020.

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