- 06 February, 2019
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When Vaishnavi lost her parents at the age of 12 to ill health, she and her brother were directionless and confused. They didn’t know who to go to and what to do. Luckily for them, their paternal aunt and uncle took them in.
But things didn’t get easier for them there. Their aunt’s family sustained themselves as agricultural labourers who earned just Rs.4000-6000 a month. As a family of four with two additional mouths to feed now, the family began moving from their village in Chittoor, AP to Bangalore and back in search of work. In order to make things easier, the family enrolled their two children, Vaishnavi and her brother in a gurukul in Chittoor. But in 6 months, the family was uprooted again and taken to Bangalore.
Our community organizer from People’s Organization for Rural Development (PORD) noticed that the children weren’t in school anymore and began to get concerned that their guardians might have taken them to Bangalore to engage in child labour. The organizer immediately informed the Panchayat about this who pressurized the family to return to Chittoor. After returning early this year, they were re-enrolled in the government school in their village.
But two months later, in April, Vaishnavi dropped out of school again. The children’s collective and community based organizations in the village realized that the family was going to get Vaishnavi married to lessen the burden on the family.
Experienced in situations like this, our project partner made multiple visits to the family during which they realized that the family felt that these two children were a burden to them and they could only afford to educate one child. Since Vaishnavi was of marriageable age according to them, they decided that Vaishnavi’s brother could continue going to school. They felt that this would not only help them but also ensure that she was protected as she had to travel 6 kilometers to her current school and they were worried about harassment.
Realizing that this was the result of multiple issues; primarily financial, the local authorities, government organizations and community including caste leaders, teachers, panchayat and children’s collective were called upon by PORD. After a lot of deliberation on the best course of action, the Panchayat offered the family an SC corporation loan (a subsidized loan granted at the panchayath level for extremely poor SC communities to enhance their livelihood).
Currently Vaishnavi’s guardians are a little less burdened and have agreed to send her to a gurukul which will ensure her education till 10th grade.
PORD has actively worked to sensitize the community regarding child marriage over the years. Over the last two years, only 2 instances of child marriage were identified and averted by the community. The convergence of all the stakeholders like the Panchayat, teachers, and community has protected children from multiple issues like child labor, child marriage and lack of education.
As rightly said, it does take a village to raise a child.