When our colleagues in rural areas of Bihar, one of the poorest states in India, are trying to help the returned children, rescued from Jaipur, to sustain their freedom, it’s a huge struggle on every front. Alongside family poverty, appalling caste discrimination, and all the reasons why children ended up in exploitation in the first place, these young people have been deeply harmed. Against these odds, when some of these adolescents recover a sense of having a better future and something they truly want to work for, it is the best success that we can imagine.
Last month, Ashish Kumar sat for the Matriculation exam, the equivalent of 10th-grade exams in India. See the article about it here.
By working with Ashish, and now with others in the survivor collectives in Bihar, we learn about what matters for them to recover. For example, on recent site visits to these adolescent groups, our Freedom Fund colleague, Abhijit, was struck by the force with which they were demanding access to better educational opportunities. We’re now working to find funding for tuition support to be provided through our local partners.
Sitting for the Matriculation exam was a personal achievement for Ashish, and it was built on a couple of years of support and supplementary tuition provided by our Bihar partner, Centre DIRECT. But Ashish was also part of a wider landmark achievement in deterring trafficking: Centre DIRECT helped him to come back to Jaipur to testify in court, leading to the first conviction with life imprisonment for child labour trafficking, in August 2019. He did this despite massive pressure on him and his family by the traffickers. Since then there have been five more convictions in Jaipur.
These victories belong to survivors like Ashish, but Child Labour Free Jaipur (CLFJ) has been working to remove the obstacles they face. For example, CLFJ is assisting the legal system in Jaipur and in districts of Bihar to arrange video conferencing for victims’ testimony. It should be safer and less traumatic for them than travelling hundreds of miles to Jaipur – and it should mean that convictions come through much faster.
We’re now working with almost 900 returned children in Bihar. In the past, most of these rescued children would be rapidly picked up by traffickers again, but with our partners’ regular support, working closely with local government, that re-trafficking rate is now down to 1.7%, even despite the impact of covid. We hope that many more of these children will be sitting for school exams, joining the survivor collectives and starting to define their purpose.
Child Labour Free Jaipur Initiative aims to progressively eliminate child labour through a united strategy involving apparel and handicraft businesses, the state government, enforcement systems and communities. It is supported by the Freedom Fund, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, British Asian Trust, and Laudes Foundation. Learn more about our hotspot.