Describe your program or new idea in one sentence.
Prevention of child labor through education and advocacy at grassroots level coupled with macro-level policy interventions.
What makes your initiative uniquely positioned to create change in your community?
Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) conceptualized the model of Bal Mitra Gram to eliminate the cause of child labour at the village level. Creating a child labour free village is a step towards BBA's vision of making a child labour free India. Bal Mitra Gram was conceptualized in 1999 and its implementation began in 2001. It has so far been realized in 150 villages and is on-going in 43 more villages in various states of India. The uniqueness of the Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) initiative lies in the active participation of the village children in creating a legitimate democratic space for themselves in panchayats, communities, schools and families. Secondly it addresses the deep rooted problem of child labour and creates a demand and value for good education inculcates village pride, ignites the mass consciousness using the people's potential, power and local resources forming a significant element for success and sustainability. BMG is the true translation of child rights at the grassroots level.
The biggest challenge to our success is:
Lack of awareness: The people of the area were ignorant of the importance of education and were unwilling to send their children to school.
Lack of education facilities like in schools there is no blackboard chalks and even permanent teachers.
Political will and political insurgency etc. became one of the challenges we faced .
Illiteracy: Because of Illiteracy there were lots of superstitions among the local people so to influence the people or to change the attitude of the people, become very difficult. Village people were unaware about different policies and schemes for them.
Lack of infrastructure: There were no basic infrastructure facilities no black board in the school, no proper toilets because of these the retention of children in school was less. There were no roads and the existing roads were in a pathetic condition.
Naxalism and terrorism: The target area is under the influence of naxalite (Maoist insurgency), so intervention in these areas is fraught with danger for the activists. Also, there has been no proper implementation of government policies with government officers hardly coming to the villages to solve their problems.
Describe how you organize and carry out your work?
Identification through a conscious effort with high incidence of child labour. Relevant data is gathered and a preliminary socio- economic survey is conducted.
This phase ensures that all children in the age group of 6-14 years are enrolled in school. Teachers are sensitized for the retention of children in school. In school, the children are made aware of their rights and are encouraged to participate in the decision-making processes of the village. A children's assembly or Bal Panchayat, is formed after an election, with total focus on child-participation and child-leadership. This democratically elected Panchayat represents all children and raises its voice to fight for the rights of children. Thereafter, integration with the Gram Panchayat is undertaken. The members of the Gram Panchayat are sensitized and encouraged to actively involve the children in the policy-decision-making processes of the village. The culmination of this phase involves the handing over of charge to an advisory and working committee consisting of aware and sensitized villagers. The village is then declared and certified as a 'Bal Mitra Gram' or 'Child Friendly Village'.
What is your plan to scale and expand your innovation into your community and beyond?
Experiment the success of a small geographical area to be scaled up and replicated in district and beyond. Dialogue is in progress with corporates and miners regarding corporate social responsibility. The BMGs are successful because they encourage community ownership. Community members are responsible for identifying and acting upon their own community needs, and holding government agencies accountable for their responsibilities to poor families and children.
Scaling out the idea requires funding to provide adequate trainings and collaboration meetings among organizations sharing the BMG model and working together to improve it. It requires internal capacity building for required role changes among our staff members who would be going from implementers to trainers or outreach people. On a broader level, it is important for government bodies and NGOs to adapt a best practices-sharing and to prioritize the bottom-up contributions of villages as a means of creating lasting change. These things can happen with an intensive level of outreach and awareness-building and with bridge-builders to create common ground of action among like-minded organizations.
What other resources, institutional, or policy needs would be necessary to help sustain and scale up your idea?
A comprehensive ban on child labour and implementation of the Right to Education will be the major policy changes impacting our work.