Helping children leave brickyard labor in India

By Elise Derstine | May 15, 2020 | South Asia | Education, Freedom from Violence & Exploitation

In Kolhapur, India, Avani bravely rescues and protects children engaged in hazardous labor while striving to end the practice.

There are more than 10 million child laborers in India, and more than 35,000 in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, alone.

In a district famous for its brickyards, children as young as five labor in the sun to make bricks, working for less than 40 cents per day and with no access to basic amenities or safety. Thousands of young people are missing out on an education, spending their days working instead of going to school.

But one organization is working to change that, no matter the risk. Surrounded by dangerous working conditions and death threats from employers of child labor, Avani staff fearlessly strive to protect these children in accordance with Indian law.

Avani is a Global Fund for Children partner and a winner of the 2020 Juliette Gimon Courage Award.

Helping children to leave hazardous labor is an intensive, months-long process. Prior to and after rescue, Avani coordinates with local government, police, and courts to ensure the children’s safety and plan for rehabilitation.

At its shelter for rescued child laborers and other at-risk children, Avani’s social workers evaluate each child’s wellbeing and assess their educational and vocational needs. Avani then prepares children to re-enroll in school or receive age-appropriate vocational training. The goal is to ensure that each child has the skills and support they need to stay out of hazardous labor for good.

Children take part in educational lessons at one of Avani's daycare centers. © Scott Kafora / Avani

Avani also helps to prevent child labor and ensure children’s safety by running several schools and daycare centers in brickyard camps and waste-picking communities. At the daycare centers, young children receive pre-primary education, care, and nutritious food while their mothers are at work.

Many of the children Avani serves come from migrant families who travel to Maharashtra to work on sugarcane farms. Avani first ensures that they have access to education during the labor season. Then, when the monsoon season begins and migrant families leave Kolhapur, Avani staff travel to the children’s home communities to monitor them and see that they are regularly attending school in their native regions.

In addition to helping children continue their education, Avani reports that this program has also contributed to fewer instances of child marriage as girls return to their villages.

Anuradha Bhosale, Avani’s Vice-Chair and Founder of its Children’s Projects, was forced into domestic labor herself at age 6.

She has spent the past 25 years fighting to prevent child exploitation, labor, trafficking, and female infanticide. Through her work at Avani, she has facilitated the rescue of over 14,000 child laborers and has provided over 54,000 migrant children and school dropouts the right to healthcare and education.

Anuradha Bhosale, center, was forced into domestic labor at age 6. Now she dedicates her life to eradicating child labor through her work at Avani. © Scott Kafora / Avani

Anuradha and the Avani team also work to mobilize grassroots support and advance policy change to uphold children’s rights throughout the region.

As a winner of the 2020 Juliette Gimon Courage Award, Avani was selected for its courageous work from among 14 award finalists that have confronted death threats, defied the Taliban to operate secret girls’ schools, and helped children with disabilities climb mountains.

Learn more about Avani and see Anuradha accept the award.

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