Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Child Rights - The Real struggle, The Real Stories

I met little Meena during my project visit to a village called Kuppannoor at Salem. Female foeticide, bonded labour, child labour, child marriage, untouchability- you name it, the village has everything.
I do not remember when Meena started holding my hand. I stayed in that village with my team for about 5 hours and she did not leave my hand even for a minute. My hands were profusely sweating and the little girl was wiping it with her soiled dress, then clutching to it as if she never wanted to leave it.

When she was convinced that I would not leave her soon, she asked me in Tamil “ Nan ungale akkannnu koopidalama” (“Can I call you Akka?” Akka is sister in Tamil). Overwhelmed with emotion, I told her “Yes, dear”.

She was one among those many underprivileged children in the village who were denied education. Belonging to a bonded labour family, there is a huge chance that either she might end up being a child labour or could be a child bride. But on that day, she was not aware of what is in store for her. I cannot ever forget her smile and those big eyes with hope.

Meena, you will always be in my prayers.

The dalits of this village belongs to the Arundhatiyar community, considered as the most inferior group among dalits. Majority of them are under bonded labour for a meagre monthly salary of Rs 300 for many years. For outside world, they were untouchables, but I assure you, they make the best tea and will serve it you with lots of love.

Mohanapriya was all happy when she met us. I became dead cautious while answering her questions for she had started to look upon us. It was a moment of realization that I amidst them with a huge responsibility. She is the first girl in the Arundhatiyar community to pass 10th standard. I could see dreams in her eyes. She wanted to be an IAS officer.

She said “ Akka, the officers do not want to hear our story. We are always pushed around when we try to meet them. But if somebody from our community becomes an officer, it would be helpful for the community to place our needs.

There is another bright young girl whose name just slipped from my memory. She had no parents and lives with her grandmother and a younger sister who is a speech and hearing - impaired child. Tears welled up in my eyes when I saw her grandmother. She is so old and walks with a stoop.
I met some grandmothers also. To my utter dismay, they were in their late 20’s. Besides, many had been forced to undergo female foeticide.

The children at Ponmalai nagar village again amazed me. Sans any facilities, they were a bundle of talent. If given facilities, they could challenge any privileged child.

My note would be incomplete if I didn’t mention Jayam who have started bringing real change into this downtrodden community. She was a child labourer, child bride, a mother who was forced to undergo female foetcide. If Jayam did not raise her voice, the community would never experience a change.

I believe people like Jayam are the real leaders. She get death threats often but those are not enough to bog her down.

And I salute Jayam – the REAL LEADER

All pictures are copyrighted  PS

1 comment:

  1. Good that you have highlighted the plight of the youngsters you met.But there must be institutionalized framework to attack the problem of bonded labour,child labour and also to provide them with work and income to live with dignity.Good that people like Jayam have come forward.Besides the government,rich people of the district can adopt the village to render greater facilities for the hapless children.
    Nice to see your contribution towards this giant task