Here are a few stories about some of the children the project has recently supported...
Amutha, aged 12, is from Palani. Following many arguments with her husband and having been physically abused on many occasions, her mother ran away from home. On remarrying, her father started beating Amutha and her brother claiming they weren’t his children. Amutha and her brother left to live with their grandmother who earns just Rs50 (60p) a day working in the local market. Psychologically affected by the abuse she had experienced, Amutha dropped out of school.Arunodhaya, on hearing of the girl’s situation, now provides Amutha with counseling and she regularly visits the drop-in centre for support. She is now back in school and is progressing well.Aahilyan is from Dindigul. He has no mother and his father is a carpenter earning Rs100 (£1.20) a day. Following his father's remarriage, Aahilyan's mother treated him very badly. He eventually ran away from home and started living on the streets.Arunodhaya’s field staff spotted Aahilyan on the street and encouraged him to visit the drop-in centre in Palani. Following a number of visits to the centre, Arunodhaya enrolled Aahilyan on a training course in mechanics. He is now working in a bicycle shop earning about Rs100 a day.Gandharvan is 13 years old. His family lives in a small rented house in Vilpatti Village. His parents are agricultural labourers, earning Rs90 a day, which is not enough to make ends meet. Gandharvan therefore had to drop out of school to help out at home. He is now being supported by Arunodhaya – back in school, he attends an after school club run by Arunodhaya, which provides supplementary tuition for children who need additional help with any subjects at school. He recently took part in an interschool Kabadi competition and won first prize. The teachers and his parents are extremely proud of him. “When I finish school I want to become an office worker!”
Amutha, aged 12, is from Palani. Following many arguments with her husband and having been physically abused on many occasions, her mother ran away from home. On remarrying, her father started beating Amutha and her brother as he believed they weren’t his children. Amutha and her brother left to live with their grandmother who earns just Rs50 (60p) a day working in the local market. Psychologically affected by the abuse she had experienced, Amutha dropped out of school.
Arunodhaya, on hearing of the girl’s situation, now provides Amutha with counseling and she regularly visits the drop-in centre for support. She is now back in school and is progressing well.
Aahilyan is from Dindigul. He has no mother and his father is a carpenter earning Rs100 (£1.20) a day. Following Aahilyan’s father remarriage, his step mother treated him very badly. He eventually ran away from home and started living on the streets.
Arunodhaya’s field staff spotted Aahilyan on the street and encouraged him to visit the drop-in centre in Palani. Following a number of visits to the centre, Arunodhaya enrolled Aahilyan on a training course in mechanics. He is now working in a bicycle shop earning about Rs100 a day.
Gandharvan is 13 years old. His family lives in a small rented house in Vilpatti Village. His parents are agricultural labourers, earning Rs90 a day, which is not enough to make ends meet. Gandharvan therefore had to drop out of school to help out at home.
He is now being supported by Arunodhaya – back in school, he attends an after school club run by Arunodhaya, which provides supplementary tuition for children who need additional help with any subjects at school. He recently he took part in an interschool Kabadi competition and won first prize. The teachers and his parents are extremely proud of him.
“When I finish school I want to become an office worker!”
Over the past year, a total of 3,266 children have benefited from this project, including:
Arunodhaya runs two transit shelters in Dindigul and Palani that provide care and protection to street and working children and children from dysfunctional families. With support from local businesses, the police, local leaders and street vendors, field staff at both locations identify children in vulnerable situations and encourage them to visit the shelters. Once children have been admitted at the shelters they are given immediate care and protection and the local police are informed. At the shelters children can wash, eat a nutritious meal, play, or simply rest in safety. They also have access to healthcare. After admission, children with families who are willing to return to them are supported in reintegration. Those children who want to continue with their studies or alternatively learn a trade are either reintegrated into schools or enrolled into vocational training courses in Dindigul. Children who are staying at the transit shelters have formed a committee among themselves to play a role in maintaining the shelters - the committee meets every weekend to make their suggestion for the improvement of in-house activities.
The shelters supported a total of 139 children during 2010/2011: 78 children were reunited with their families; 32 children were reintegrated into schools; six completed vocational training courses; and 11 children were enrolled in other educational institutions.
Community Development Programme
Vilpatti Village Project (VVP) is located at the hill station of Kodaikanal. This community based programme works in Vilpatti, Kovilpatty, Sathyanagar and Attuvampatty. During the year the project activities had been extended to Mannamanur, Poombari and Kavunchi. The project aims to improve the educational standard of all children by reducing drop-outs. A crèche is run for young children and supplementary education provided to all other children during the evenings. The crèche provides vital support to the Vilpatti communities, mainly agricultural labourers, who would otherwise leave younger children in the care of older siblings. The crèche is a means of support to the community members, ensuring their children are cared for and protected while they are away at work; this programme also enables older children, who would otherwise be caring for their younger siblings to go to school. The crèche offers nutritious meals, healthcare and early childhood education for young children, as well as a wide range of stimulating activities.
Of 27 children enrolled in the crèche in 2010/11, 12 were enrolled into Government run primary schools in Vilpatti. During this year, 30 children were enrolled in the crèche, including 12 children from the previous year.
Three crèche parents’ meetings were held in 2010/11 with 43 parents participating – the main areas discussed were further development and running of the programme and ways to increase local community support/involvement in the programme. In the last meeting an 11-member committee was formed, which will make recommendations for the improvement of the programme.
Vocational Skills Development
Arunodhaya runs a vocational skill development course for both boys and girls. There are three courses offered in welding, electrics and dress making. The aim of these courses is to enable school drop-outs and street children to learn a skilled trade so that they can find viable employment.
Each course is conducted over six months, during which theory classes are provided in the mornings and practical classes in the evenings. The courses take an integrated and well-rounded approach, with classes on basic literacy, socio-political studies, health and hygiene, yoga, basic computer literacy, and field placement learning in addition to training on the relevant vocational skill. Moreover the vocational training courses encourage and motivate children to continue their formal education.
Field placement training (apprenticeship) is part of the syllabus for welding and electrics. This is an opportunity for trainees to experience the working environment and deal with other aspects of the trade such as customer handling, purchasing equipment and materials etc. Arunodhaya has developed relationships with 12 businesses which provide on-the-job training to the trainees. The trainees earn a small wage from doing this, usually RS 20-100 per day. On completing the courses, exams are conducted, over three days, on theoretical and practical aspects of the course as well as social studies. Successful trainees are presented with certificates at an annual function.
This year 32 children completed training courses: 13 in welding; nine in electrics; and 10 girls in dress making.
Arunodhaya, International Childcare Trust’s partner in Tamil Nadu, South India, runs a number of Community Education Centres within urban slum communities, which provide supplementary tuition and basic literacy and numeracy skills to children who are either struggling at school or do not currently attend school, particularly for those children whose parents must work during the evenings. Satindra (12 years old) is one of hundreds of children who attend these centres.
Describe your family?
"My parents are going to construction work for a daily wage of Rs.80 (£1) per day. They did not complete even their primary education. I have one elder sister aged 17 who is working in the spinning mill and one elder brother aged 15 working in an automobile service shop. I am the third child and I have one younger sister aged 10 who comes with me to my school."
Describe your daily routine?
"Every day me and my elder brother get up in the morning and fetch some water from the pump near by. Before we finish fetching the water, mother and sister prepare some food for breakfast. My elder sister helps my younger sister and me get ready for school before she goes to work. Since my family is in debt, my elder sister and brother did not study and are going to work. After noon both of us have food in the government mid-day meals scheme. I am studying in 6th standard in the government middle school at Chettinayakkanpatti, 1km away from home. I always used to fail in two subjects (English and maths) before I came to the Community Education Centre. In the evening my younger sister and I come home at 5pm - mum and other family members will come only after 8pm so I will play and roam in the streets."
When did you start attending the Community Education Centre?
"When my friends went to the centre, I was also interested. One Saturday, in the centre, the teacher conducted games and drawing competitions, I was curious about it. A few days later I went to the centre and at that time the teacher was teaching about various flags of different countries showing a chart - I had never been told about all of this at my school so I started coming to the Community Education Centre. Then I found that every day the teacher helps us with our homework and once a week there is a general knowledge class, where she teaches us about world flags, different countries, about Dindigul district, roads in India, tourist spots in India etc. Now I am attending regularly."
Why do you attend the centre?
"My family members come home late after their work so I used to play in the streets and in my slum area. There is only one bulb light at our house and if we study in it at dark my eyes were paining. But in the centre we have tube lights and I can see properly. In my house me and my sister will sit all alone and study, but in the centre my class mates will also be studying and the teacher will clear my doubts if I ask questions and she also encourages me to complete my homework. She is also helping me with my English and maths after seeing my low marks."
Do many children you know attend similar centres?
"Some children whose parents can afford to pay money for extra tuition classes go to their own school teachers, but my parents hardly get money to pay our school fees, so we come to this centre, but I think we study better than those children."
What difference has the centre made to your life?
"Before I joined the centre, my friends and I would waste our time in the streets and watch television in nearby homes. But now we play for some time and then go to the centre. I just passed all my subjects and got 70 marks in maths, which I used to fail before; even my class teacher appreciated it. Earlier I used to think that if I had money I would also go to extra-tuition and study better, but now through Arunodhaya’s Community Education Centre, I am able to get better marks than the children who pay to go to tuition centres. Apart from that I also think that I can achieve more in my life if I study well. I will also become a teacher and teach poor children without getting fees."
As part of this important project, Arunodhaya is working to prevent the exploitation of girls working in textile spinning mills under the ‘sumangali thittam’ scheme. Below you can find out about a major survey, carried out by Arunodhaya, which highlights the severity of the problem.
Dindigul District is well known throughout India for its thriving textile industry. It is estimated that there are more than 10,000 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 working in its textile spinning mills. Every year, schemes known as ‘sumangali thittam’ (marriage plans) lure thousands of girls, often from poor rural communities, into the garment industry with an incentive of earning their own dowry (marriage payment) at the end of a three-year ‘apprenticeship’. Instead these young girls end up working in deplorable conditions, returning to their families years later empty-handed due to a lack of legal or regulatory protection.
Documentation of survey work
Following the completion of a base line survey, Arunodhaya has produced a full report, which outlines all the findings.
Selection of the findings:
· The findings clearly show that children below the age of 18 are working in mills, which is a clear violation of international conventions, although not in India.
· Mills are violating labour laws by recruiting girls aged 14 or below. This is an offense according to the Factory Act.
· Most of the respondents said that they had dropped out of school and joined the ‘sumangali’ scheme due to poverty.
· Only a small minority of respondents stated marriage costs (dowry) as the reason for joining the scheme. This clearly indicates that the coinage 'Sumangali' (married woman) is a misnomer.
· The majority of respondents were encouraged to join the scheme by family members.
· One third of all respondents said that they do shifts of 10 hours or more, which is more than the legal limit.
· More than half of all respondents said they were being paid less than what is stated in their contracts.
· 28% of respondents are not allowed to take breaks during shifts.
· 23% of respondents are not being provided with safety gear.
· 71% of respondents have experienced some form of sexual harassment/abuse, in addition to verbal abuse which is common.
· The majority of the respondents’ health had deteriorated since joining the scheme.
Case Study: Madhubala
Madhubala was 15 when she was forced to drop out of school. Her family was extremely poor; her father who worked as an agricultural labourer spent his income on alcohol and gambling - her mother was a daily labourer under the government 100 days work scheme, but her income wasn’t enough to support the family of five.
Therefore, with the help of a middleman, Madhubala’s mother secured a job for her at a nearby garment factory in Eragampatti, Tiruppur District, under the ‘sumangali’ scheme. She was contracted for three years, at the end of which she would receive Rs 30,000 (£420). As per the terms of the contract, Madhubala was paid Rs 1,200 (£17) per month; she wasn’t allowed to take any leave; and any costs for food, medical expenses and toiletries would be deducted from her monthly salary.
She shared a small room with 20 other girls from all over Tamil Nadu. The quality of food provided at the hostel was extremely poor and there wasn’t enough of it – each day they were given just half a cup of rice.
"Starving at my house seemed to be a better option.”
When Arunodhaya, International Childcare Trust’s partner in India, met Madhubala she complained of sleep deprivation. Madhubala worked nights; on completing her shift, she would return to her room to sleep or simply rest, but due to the noise from the factory, this was virtually impossible. Without a balanced diet and enough sleep she often felt weak and fell ill, particularly during menstruation. During her shifts, the mill supervisor would often touch her inappropriately and make lurid comments. Furthermore, the workers weren’t allowed to sit down during shifts and were only given 15 minutes break each day.
“It was horrible to be in such a situation and I even thought of committing suicide.”
Like so many other girls, Madhubala often contemplated suicide. The only reason she stayed at the mill was because of her family’s financial situation. With the money that she hopes to receive on completing her contract, Madhubala wants to pay for her brother’s and sister’s higher education.
Quotes from other girls:
“Whenever I refused to work overtime, I was threatened of extending the contract period by six more months.”
“I was forced to take up a job in the mill so that I can save money for my marriage.”
“On the whole I felt it was better to die than live.”
“I suffer from breathing problems and also have severe pain in my hands and legs.”
“The sufferings I had to undergo when other children of my age were playing and enjoying made me cry.”
“The need of the hour is money and we are forced to work for it.”
“I extremely find it difficult to work in the mill any more. It is a place which does not respect women and their rights.”
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