At 14 years, when most school kids are obsessed with movies and friends and gossip, Anitha had her head on a completely different set of things – grazing the landlord’s cattle and doing his household chores. And this would have been her life – a story of untapped potential and lost childhood – if the CRY supported project, Association for Social Economical Educational Cultural Health and Environment Development (PEOPLE) hadn’t rescued her from the venomous fangs of child labour.
Anitha lived in a tiny village in Davangere district of Karnataka with her parents who were daily wage workers. Their village school only had classes till 6th grade, so when Anitha finished her 6th grade, she had to quit school. There was a secondary school in the neighbouring village, but no buses ran between the two villages and walking was an impossible task, so Anitha was forced to give up all her dreams of becoming anything more than a nameless daily wager.
That summer, a village landlord offered her the job of a domestic worker, and her parents jumped for it- what is an education worth, if you don’t know where the next meal is coming from?
And when making a livelihood for Anitha and her two younger siblings got even more difficult with widespread unemployment, Anitha’s family decided to migrate to Udupi. The arecanut plantations of Udupi had plenty of work available for at least 4-6 months which seemed promising, and Anitha’s family moved to Udupi- without her. Left behind, because she had a job unlike her parents, she continued her work at the landlord’s place, and lived in his cowshed.
When Indramma, a community organiser from PEOPLE, heard about Anitha’s situation at a children’s collective meeting, she went to meet Anitha’s aunt to understand the family’s situation. She also met with the landlord and managed to convince him to let Anitha go. When Indramma saw how Anitha thirsted for an education, she decided to take the next step – to talk to her parents over the phone. Indramma contacted them multiple times and tried to help them realise what was wrong with Anitha working, when she should be studying.
Gradually, Indramma’s persistence bore fruit, and she took Anitha to her previous school, which now catered to students up to 7th grade thanks to the advocacy efforts of PEOPLE. She got Anitha enrolled in 7th grade and followed her progress closely. When Anitha finished her 7th grade, Indramma made her parents agree to send her to the school in the neighboring village. The secondary school was now accessible via bus, as PEOPLE had also worked to get a government bus service started by the government.
Now, Anitha is on a different track altogether, a track that leads to school, not work.
Anitha is just one of the millions of child labourers whose lives need to change for the better. And YOU can make it happen. Visit bit.ly/LearnNotEarn. Become a changemaker.