There is nothing worse than forcing a child to work and earn a living at a young age. Child labour, no doubt, closes doors of opportunities, fun and freedom to kids. At a time meant to attend school, play or spend time with friends, thousands of children in India today find themselves trapped in hazardous working environments like mining, quarrying, agriculture or domestic service.
It is shocking that approximately 168 million children, aged between five and 17, are employed in these kinds of occupations in different parts of the world. Of these, nearly 15.5 million children, the majority being girls, work in domestic service.
There has been a huge global effort to end child labour, however according to UNICEF more than 100 million children will still continue to be engaged in child labour till 2020.
In India, several acts prohibiting employing children in mines, factories or any other hazardous fields have been introduced since independence. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act in 2009, made education free for underserved children.
Apart from these, efforts of several non-profit organisations like The Akshaya Patra Foundation have also helped bring change to children’s lives.
Akshaya Patra, a NGO dedicated to underserved children since 2000, supplies freshly cooked mid-day meals to over 1.4 million children across 10 states in India. Interestingly, the initiative taken by The Akshaya Patra Foundation has helped bring a notable decline in child labour. The Mid-Day Meal Programme has also helped boost school enrolment, classroom attendance and concentration in children.
Not surprisingly, only around 43.53 lakh children aged between five and 14 are employed today compared to the 1.26 crore working children in 2001.
However, thousands of children in India still miss out school and go to work at an early age. These children will grow up as uneducated and economically backward adults and will affect the nation’s progress and development.
To end classroom hunger and child labour in India, Akshaya Patra is planning to extend its feeding reach to 5 million by 2020.
A world without child labour is not very far away. But, each one of us has to come forward to turn it into a reality.