Combating child labour requires programme interventions that are comprehensive with a holistic approach that not only targets children, but also their families and communities, the recruiters, traffickers and exploiters, government officials, and society at large. There are millions of out-of-school children who have the potential to join the soaring numbers of child labourers. Efforts need to be made to prevent the entry of the non-child labourer into the labour market which fuels illiteracy, unemployment and poverty.
The triangular paradigm of child labour, illiteracy and poverty alleviation needs to be resolved and broken.
The Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) in India has made efforts to better understand the issue and has launched concrete interventions in the form of Bal Mitra Grams (BMG) or Child Friendly Villages, which ensure school enrolment and retention of all children who are not in school in order to reduce the vulnerability of at-risk children and communities. BMGs directly address the multi-dimensional problems that generate, maintain and perpetuate the child labour situation. BMGs attack the triangular paradigm, a vicious circle of illiteracy, poverty and child labour.
The BMG approach is child-centric and ensures participation of children, making it a comprehensive programme. It is an innovative concept that offers a long-term, sustainable solution to a wide variety of problems such as child labour, trafficking for forced labour, poverty alleviation, and illiteracy, among others. BMGs aim at prevention while understanding the root causes to ensure sustainability and permanent settlement of the child labour problem. Not only does the BMG programme aim to withdraw children from work while enhancing the quality of education, it also aims at a holistic development of villages towards the creation of a child friendly society. Throughout the whole process emphasis is given on child participation, community mobilization, promotion of education, victim empowerment, gender equity and awareness of gender issues, while drawing upon the convergence of various poverty alleviation schemes and programmes, and ensuring long-term sustainability of the initiatives through the creation of sound community organisation and building a resource base.
There are a number of essential elements at the heart of a Bal Mitra Gram or Child Friendly Village:
- Elimination and withdrawal of child labour from the village
- Enrolment of all children in schools
- Establishing a children’s parliament in every school in the village
- Making their voices heard in Adult Panchaya
A BMG village has no child labour. All children receive compulsory, good quality education, and the voice and opinion of the children are heard and taken into account. To date there are more than 150 Child Friendly Villages and currently Bachpan Bachao Andolan is working in an additional 43 villages to make them Bal Mitra Gram.
The impact of the BMG tactic has been phenomenal in encouraging parents and children to enrol children in schools.
- Significantly in BMG villages gender sensitization of enroling children was very positive as a large proportion of girls are also attending schools
- Lesser drop-out rates exist for boys and girls in BMG villages in primary, middle and high school as compared to non-BMG villages
- The participation of children with adults in decision-making has also been fruitful in most villages and has indicated dividends in terms of improved infrastructure for schools.
- BMG has helped prevent child labour and exploitation in these villages, since it minimizes vulnerability and communities withdraw children from work and enrol them in school.
For more information on this tactic, read our in-depth case study.
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