Meera, a Young Agent for Change

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By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
Posted on 4/14/2016
Meera

Today in India, millions of children work as laborers, robbed of their right to childhood — more than 4.35 million between the ages of 5 and 14, according to 2011 census data.

The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of child laborers in the country, followed by Andhra Pradesh at second place and Rajasthan at third, the three together accounting for nearly 10 percent of India’s total child laborers. Rajasthan is known not only for its prevalent child labor issues but also for its rising prevalence of child trafficking.

But marching against the odds and raising her voice against these practices is one teenage girl, a 10th-grader named Meera, who lives in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district. The daughter of farmers, Meera is the youngest of the family’s six children, and the only one who was able to exercise her right to education while the rest had to drop out of school.

Meera also actively participates in ChildFund programs and has taken the role of change agent, making a difference in her own way. With a confident smile, she tells the story of her fight against child labor and child trafficking.

Charity begins at home, which was where Meera’s fight against child labor began when she prevented her uncle from sending her cousins to Gujarat to work as child laborers. In the area’s notorious cotton fields, children are highly sought after for their small hands, suited for the delicate work of pollinating and picking cotton. Meera’s training and guidance from ChildFund paid off, helping her find the words and the confidence to convince her uncle not to send his children to work.

Meera

“It was a very dicey situation for me, being a child, standing against the decision of an elder family member,” she says, “but I remained firm and left no stone unturned to convince him.” Since then, there has been no looking back.

In 2012, Meera was honored with ChildFund India’s Prerna Award for her extraordinary contributions to the community and for her active participation in her local Child Club, ChildFund India’s awareness programs, and training programs on how to prevent child labor and influence her peers against child labor. Meera, who aspires to become a teacher, also attended training on motivating children toward education and worked hard to enroll children in school in her own village.

ChildFund India conducts various activities to generate awareness against child labor and child trafficking — establishing Child Clubs and early childhood development programs, organizing age-appropriate training and sensitization programs and strengthening School Management Committees.

Since ChildFund began its interventions in Meera’s village, there has been a 70 percent reduction in the cases of child labor and child trafficking there.

“I feel privileged to be able to contribute toward ending child labor in my village,” says Meera, “and I will keep fighting it.”