They say childhood is the most important and fun-filled phase of our lives – the age when you are free of responsibilities, not bound by boundaries and showered with endless affection. A lot of you may agree with this, but more than half of our population won’t. Living in our protected environments cushioned with all sorts of comforts, we forget to acknowledge the harsh reality most people live in.
Let me take you a little closer. As per the National Census, there are close to 10.1 million child labourers in India, in the age group of 5 to 14 years.
And now let me introduce you to someone I know. There’s a little girl named Gudiya, aged about 7-8 years who lives in Bharat Vihar JJ Colony in Delhi. Thrown into a life filled with unfortunate events after her father’s death and her mother’s mental instability, her grandparents now take care of her. The only imaginable compensation for her was perhaps a stable future, the possibility of which got snatched from her too.
A while back, her grandmother asked CRY’s volunteering team working in Dwarka to get Gudiya’s Aadhar card made so that she could get her admitted into a school. Completely ecstatic to envision a bright future for Gudiya wherein she is independent and has gained a formal education, two of our interns – Dharmendra and Neha immediately got to work. Due to lack of proper documents and valid proofs, however, she couldn’t get admission in a government school. Not wanting to let go of the dream, these two urged her grandmother to let her attend the study sessions that they conducted in the area so that her flight still gets fuelled. Her grandmother hesitated, but then after several attempts, agreed. Gudiya showed up for a few sessions and then stopped coming.
We later realized that Gudiya was sent to the city to work as a helper in a house where she does the chores and takes care of a baby. How ironic is that – at the age where she should be getting taken care of and nurtured, she is the one taking care of somebody else. Dharmendra pointed it out to her grandmother, only to be told that the family income is significantly low and that Gudiya’s income will increase their standards of living.
While seeing young children like Gudiya get subjected to fulfilling their family’s needs and desires in the name of “their duties” is disheartening, it doesn’t keep the resolve of volunteers like Dharmendra down. He says he will work harder and not let these road blocks come in the way of his work with children. He has seen many young girls like Gudiya fight and reach their goals, one success at a time. We look forward to the day when many young girls like Gudiya can hope to achieve their full potential and live a happy and healthy childhood just like her other counterparts.
Manvi Mehra, CRY Intern, Delhi
You can help us ensure Gudiya and many children like her choose school, not work. Visit bit.ly/LearnNotEarn to help us change these stories.