During the past 30 years, India has accelerated to become one of the fastest growing economic powers in the world. Although this shift has created new employment opportunities for millions of people, it has also resulted in widespread economic disparity. For some Indian families, choices are limited, which can lead to difficult decisions. Millions of children in India are forced to work in underpaid and often dangerous jobs to help their families survive, and despite a nationwide ban on the use of child laborers, the practice is still widespread in some areas. ChildFund has worked in India since 1951, and although great strides have been made to end exploitative child labor, the road ahead is long.
Although many industries in India make use of child workers, some are particularly hazardous. The country's mining sector, for example, often employs children, as their small size makes it easier for them to fit in tiny spaces underground. This leaves them vulnerable to cave-ins and other health risks posed by extended contact with mineral dust and other airborne irritants. Many children fear this type of work, but they often feel they have no other options to support their families.
"New kids are always showing up here. And they lie about their age, telling you they are 20 years old when you can see from their faces that they are much, much younger," Sanjay, a 13-year-old boy who works in a coal mine in one of India's remote northeastern provinces, tells the Agence France-Presse. "It's terrifying to imagine the roof falling on me when I am working. I need to save money so I can return to school. I miss my friends and I still remember school. I still have my old dreams."
One of ChildFund's primary goals in India is to expand educational opportunities for children and ensure that they have the chance to attend school in a safe and welcoming environment. Also, we are working to emphasize the importance of children's rights and child protection in India.
In the northern region of Uttar Pradesh, many children and youths have few options but to work in the region's bangle-making industry. Many of these young people hope to emerge from poverty and earn an education, such as Vipin, an 18-year-old with dreams of becoming a doctor. However, his work responsibilities often interfere with this goal, as he spends many hours a day assembling bangles.
"I spend three hours in the morning and three hours in the evenings," says Vipin. "Some days, I get my fingers burned and blistered. But I have to work; otherwise, we will not complete the day's quota and incur loss."
One ChildFund-supported project that was highly successful was the Disha Children's Program. This initiative aimed to improve nutrition and reduce chronic health problems among children and youths like Vipin working in the glass and bangle manufacturing industry of Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh. Through this program, we helped reduce rates of malnutrition by 71 percent and halved the number of chronic health conditions in this group of children.
Vipin later became part of the ChildFund child sponsorship program and is now an active member of the Youth Federation, an organization dedicated to ending child labor and promoting educational opportunities for Indian youths.
To help us put an end to child labor in India, please consider sponsoring a child. Your support will mean the difference between a life of poverty and the chance of a brighter future.