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Convergence – A way to end child labour in India

The ILO teams up with the local authorities to help remove and prevent children from entering child labour in urban and rural areas in five states.

Feature | 31 July 2013

By Allan Dow, Regional Unit for Partnerships, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

UJJAIN DISTRICT, Madhya Pradesh, India (ILO News) – A sewing machine chatters into action in a small two-room home in rural Madhya Pradesh. The operator, a mother of three, pauses, adjusts the garment and continues working. One of her young daughters, Muskan, watches closely.

Muskan’s family is struggling financially. Until recently, she was unable to attend school, instead working as a child labourer. But the arrival of the sewing machine in this home has made a big difference. Muskan’s mother is a beneficiary of an ILO-supported government initiative that provides parents with the means to earn a living, and allows their children to return to the classroom.

Muskan’s face lights up as she recites a story she recently learned in her preparatory class.

“It’s a story about friendship that develops between a boy and a tree. The boy visits the tree every day. He takes a garland of flowers and plays on the branches. He eats its delicious fruit,” 10-year-old Muskan explains. “I like the story,” she adds with a broad smile.

Partnerships to end child labour in India
The ILO has been working with the Indian authorities at national, state and district levels to help remove and prevent children from entering child labour in urban and rural areas of five states. This pilot project, known as the “Convergence Project,” is implemented by the ILO’s International Programme of the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), supported by the United States Department of Labor. Linking a child in school to a family’s ability to provide for itself is central to many of the project’s activities – but bringing these components together in a complementary fashion was critical to its success.

“We’ve been working with the Government of India in their efforts to combat child labour for many years and a number of those approaches have turned into proven good practices,” said Tine Staermose, Director of the ILO Country Office for India and Decent Work Team for South Asia. “Through the Convergence Project, we’ve been able, with our government partners, to bring together those good practices in ways that will be coherent and sustainable for the future.”

Improved access to vocational training for older children is one of those good practices. It has proven particularly beneficial to adolescents who are vulnerable to dropping out of school.

In the state of Gujarat, the father of Kanha Behara (aged 15) learned about the courses through a community outreach “awareness camp” supported by the Convergence Project. “I had to take Kanha out of school when I lost my job and was short of money. I was sorry to make him leave school,” recalls K. C. Benhara. After learning about the government supported training courses, Mr Behara, immediately asked his son to enrol. “Both my wife and I are illiterate. Our parents did not educate us. But I want my children to get an education. Kanha has a sharp brain. He can do well in life.”

“Before I dropped out, I liked going to school. I was an attentive student and enjoyed the games and other activities,” said Kanha, who’s now learning to be an electrician. “Today I am learning how to wire a house and once I complete my training I hope to get a good job – or maybe even start my own company.”

Community outreach has also encouraged parents to send younger children back to the classroom. Sangeeta Devipujak, aged 13, is one who has benefited. After finishing preparatory classes she entered a mainstream government school.

“I did not like staying at home when I would see other children going to school,” said Sangeeta. “Every child should get a chance to study, as I have now. I can go far in life after completing my education.”

“These are poor people. They send their children to work due to economic constraints,” said Suchitra Debnath, a Head Teacher at Muskan’s National Child Labour Preparatory School. “When these families are given the opportunity to enhance their earnings, they will send their children to school. Everyone wants to grow in life and so do they.”

By working within the existing national and state policy frameworks to combat child labour the convergence project supports the operational work of officials at district level, helping them to deliver services to the families of child labourers. This multi-level and multi-disciplinary approach is seen as key.

“This is not a simple project. It’s not aimed solely at child labour. It’s a convergence project. The project is ‘converging’ with society to sensitise them about child labour,” said K.S. Gill, Deputy Labour Commissioner, Surat, Gujarat. “It’s also converging with various government departments to get benefits to families. It’s converging with the education institutes and departments to ensure that a child admitted to school remains attentive.”

Disclaimer: Funding for the Convergence Project was provided by the United States Department of Labor. The content of this report does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor or those of the Government of India. Nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsements by the United States Government or the Government of India.

Tags: child labour, education, vocational training, poverty alleviation

Regions and countries covered: India

Unit responsible: Department of Communication (DCOMM)

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