INDIA: Don Bosco Center in Navajeevan Helps Rescue More than 200 Children from Child Labor
(MissionNewswire) India has the largest number of child laborers under the age of 14 in the world, according to UNICEF. Many are engaged in dangerous occupations and live on the streets. As part of Operation Smile, a month long program initiated by India’s Home Ministry, more than 200 children engaged in child labor in Hyderabad, the capital of the southern Indian state of Telangana, were rescued and placed with Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Navajeevan, a home for street and working children.
According to Salesian reports, the children were rescued by city police in an apartment building where they were engaged in child labor for the bangle manufacturing industry. The children were being paid very low wages, forced to work long hours and forbidden from leaving their place of work. Further, their work exposed them to chemicals and hazardous working conditions.
In 2010, India passed a landmark law mandating that all children between the ages of 6 and 14 be in school, but according to UNICEF, millions of children remain in the workforce. Full implementation of the law went into effect in 2013, but child workers can still be found in almost every industry in India. The problem has been enforcing the law, particularly in high poverty regions of the country.
“Children who are compelled to work, even for a fraction of the day, are deprived of the education they need to learn valuable skills that lead to stable employment later in life,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Unfortunately, in many situations, children are being forced to work around the clock with barely enough time to eat, let alone study, and their prospects in life are diminished.”
Salesian missionaries living and working in India place special emphasis on rescuing and rehabilitating children engaged in child labor. Once youth are brought to Salesian-run centers they receive shelter, food and clothing. Salesian programs for the rescued youth focus on education and life skills training to help them break the cycle of poverty in order to lead productive lives free from abuse and forced labor. In addition, supplementary classes cater to those who have missed school and have fallen behind academically. This necessary extra assistance enables them to enter back into mainstream schools.
Missionaries also focus on child labor prevention through community empowerment initiatives and training programs. Educational programs, self-help groups and regular awareness classes are held for women and young adults. The goal is to provide an understanding of the dangers of child labor and to promote the importance of education and the services and supports available.
“By integrating intensive training in current social issues such as child labor, human rights and women empowerment, among other topics, Salesians missionaries aim to effect long-term social change in addition to helping youth create a future where they can attend school and after graduation, find jobs in dignified, safe and profitable fields,” adds Fr. Hyde.
India is home to more than 400 million poor people or one third of the world’s poor, according to UNICEF. Although more than 53 million people escaped poverty between 2005 and 2010, most remain vulnerable to falling back below the poverty line.
There is a lack of educational opportunities in the country often due to issues of caste, class and gender and with 44 percent of the workforce illiterate, there is much work to be done. Less than 10 percent of the working-age population has completed a secondary education and too many secondary graduates do not have the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s changing job market.
UNICEF – India