Arunodhaya Centre for Street and Working Children
PHOTOS: CHILD LABOUR
Arunodhaya Centre for Street and Working Children (Arunodhaya), a non-profit child rights organization, was founded in 1992 in Chennai, southern India. Its vision is to initiate social movement that will uproot all forms of exploitation and oppression of children, by working with local communities to promote and protect children's basic human rights. Their organizational goal is to enable all children to enjoy a dignified childhood.
Arunodhaya is implementing its CIRCLE-funded project in the poorest, least developed area of the city of Chennai. A large number of children here are working in stainless steel factories, plastic factories, and beedi rolling, or are selling wares as street vendors or collecting rags. In its baseline survey, the team identified 450 children who had dropped out of school and were working. Arunodhaya's project builds on community participation to make everyone aware of the importance of education for child labourers, as well as the dangers of many forms of children's work. Long-term sustainability is an objective of the project, since Arunodhaya knows that the members of the community themselves have the power to prioritize the education of all children (even after funding ends).
Arunodhaya believes that mobilizing a broad cross-section of the community is the most important element of their project's success. Their innovation lies in (1) their quick mobilization of various stakeholder groups, including children, parents, public offices, and employers and (2) their attention to root causes of child labour in their area (including health and economic issues).
Through Arunodhaya's innovative work, the community has quickly seen results from their efforts, which gives them more inspiration to continue in this fight against child labor.
PHOTO: CHILDREN AT TRANSITIONAL SCHOOL (CLS)
Besides the CLS programs, Arunodhaya is working with children in sangams. A sanagem is a platform through which children can express their views. Held once each fortnight, the meetings provide space for children to discuss and analyze their life situations, develop their personalities, build leadership skills, and plan actions to effect changes they desire. The CIRCLE team is also working on a youth forums, which will provide a way for youth to develop their views and then take them to the public. The youth meet once a month to discuss issues and plan awareness raising actions. Facilitators are trained to develop their leadership skills, and career guidance is offered to facilitate their later employment opportunities.
PHOTO: PARENTS' MEETING
Arunodhaya's CIRCLE project also organizes regular monthly meetings with the parents, who are clearly the key decision-makers in the lives of their children. The project has succeeded in changing parents' attitudes, and they are now motivated to find ways to send their sons and daughters to school and to make sure they stay there. Topics on the monthly agenda include “Hazards of Children at Work,” “Importance of Education,” “Health and Hygiene,” “Progress of Children in CLS,” ”Guidelines on enrolment and admission to formal schools,” and “Group Savings and Formation of Mothers' Self-Help Groups.” These parents groups have made collective decisions and taken real steps in each area, so that parents are now taking an active part in all the activities of the project.
Two major results can be attributed directly to the parents' involvement in the project:
- The mothers have formed self-help groups which guide them in saving and starting new enterprises to improve their economic situation. Building on their heightened awareness, these savings allow the mothers to make children's education a family priority.
- With the help of parents, Arunodhaya has begun to draw employers of children into the community response and activities. Several employers have been contacted and invited to a series of discussions on eliminating child labor; those who agree to attend have made positive steps already. Through the project's intervention, and with the help of the parents, five employers have cooperated and freed five children from their premises. Though the number looks small, it represents a lot of effort on the part of the project staff to persuade the employers to cooperate. Importantly, these employers have become ambassadors in carrying the message to other who hire children. They have come forward in advocating the employment of older youth instead of children.