As the sole provider in his household, Deedar’s biggest challenge is doing his schoolwork and keeping pace with his peers. He is 7 years old and a DIL student.

“The more I walk in the fields and through the market with my tray full of chickpeas and masala, the more I sell, so it’s hard for me to justify going home early to do my homework sometimes….”

Deedar’s other mission: Giving advice to the girls he sees working in the fields.

“I tell them to go to school, I give them my own example, I work and I go to school, even if I am very tired, I like to learn to read and write…. I feel so happy in school, I wish all children could feel safe and happy.”

It is only when he leaves the schoolyard that Deedar’s chest begins to tighten as the burden of being his mother’s sole provider weighs on him:

“I only make 50 rupees some days, those days I keep massaging the coins in my hand and I keep crying all the way home, because I know my mother will be sad, she used to work hard for us as housemaid, but then she got sick.”

Deedar’s father divorced his mother, leaving her with three sons. Deedar is the youngest and the only one willing to help her eke out a survival existence.

“I have two older brothers, they work as laborers, and I fight with them everyday, but they refuse to give my mother money, they come home drunk, and one day I will kick them out, when I am large enough. But for now I will just sell chickpeas to protect my mother. They says let her starve, she is useless. I cry when I hear that. But when they leave I tell her about the stories I read in school, she likes that.”

©Fatima Najm (@fatimazn), cofounder of Creatives Against Poverty