Spotlight on CLAP, India:
The Right Path to Education
Novmber 2004. As a CIRCLE partner, the Indian NGO "Committee for Legal Aid to the Poor" (CLAP) is implementing the Right Path to Education (RPE) project in Badamba, Orissa. CLAP has been working since 1982 to promote child rights and to eradicate child labor from Orissa. CLAP works to develop consensus among stakeholders (families, communities, schools, and government) about the gravity of child labor, and then asks them to contribute with solutions. The RPE project's focus is on promoting education as a fundamental right for every child; the project asks these stakeholders to promote child rights and reduce child labor.

The RPE project uses multi-pronged public awareness campaigns to increase understanding of the dangers of child labor and the importance of education. Through the use of posters, wall paintings, brochures, exhibition stalls, signature campaigns, and open public debates, CLAP has generated interest among thousands of community members, village leaders, and government officials in eradicating child labor from Badamba.

To mark National Children's Day, CLAP organized a rally and 11-day Gram Yatra (foot march) across 98 communities in Badamba. The 25,000 person-strong Gram Yatra was led by 79 year-old Mr. Shyam Sundar Das, a prominent leader who is also the Legal Project Holder of RPE and the Founder-President of CLAP. Demonstrators included lawyers, interns, youth groups, school children and concerned citizens. They marched with thought-provoking local-language slogans on child labor and the right to primary education, waving posters and shouting messages. Each community, 25,000 people in total, organized a welcome and/or meetings for the marchers and participated for a portion of the march.

The response of the communities was amazing: they inquired about the march's mission and future. They received marchers with traditional welcome rituals like beating drums, folk songs, and putting red tilak on participants' foreheads. Throughout the event, 50 community meetings were organized by local school children. During the rally, child laborers from five local schools performed several skits; winners of an anti-child labor poster contest received awards, and a model school was recognized. The children's performances depicted the dangers of child labor and the benefits of educating families and employers.

The culmination event of Gram Yatra was inaugurated by Ms. Jayanti Mahanty, an 11 year-old former child laborer who had been helped by CLAP and admitted to Banamalipur UGME School in June. Event speeches alternated with cultural programs: the number of spectators grew right up until the event's end, reaching around 2000 people! The marchers shared their Gram Yatra experience with the public and took an oath to support the ongoing campaign to end child labor.

 Photo 1
Figure 1. Part of National Child Labor Program's cultural program
Through such interventions, CLAP is increasing awareness of child labor, generating increased community support to promote children's education and instilling a sense of pride in children who go to school.

As a direct result of CLAP's activities, government officials have been endorsing changes within schools; for example, open enrollment periods have increased and teacher attendance is more strongly enforced. These interventions demonstrate how community support and increased awareness among stakeholders can result in positive changes in the lives of children.
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Figure 2. Spectators during the Gram Yatra