In 1997, our research indicated that the number of child laborers in the silk-weaving industry in the district of Kanchipuram exceeded 40,000. This included children who were bonded laborers to certain loom owners. Predictably, these results were met with denial and opposition from citizens, business people and local officials. Through RIDE’s efforts–including conducting surveys, providing information, and organizing demonstrations, the former district collector came to acknowledge our findings and consequently, assisted us in our efforts to end child labor. Subsequently we received some support from local authorities, silk-loom owners, master weavers, trade unions, police, the labor department, and the Kanchipuram Human Resource Development Forum. In partnership with our women’s Self Help Groups, RIDE undertook many activities to improve the situation of child laborers. Working collaboratively, we brought down the number of these children to less than 4,000 by 2007.
In 1997, RIDE was the only NGO active in this field. We have now been joined by more than 20 NGOs who are working in the same area for the same cause. However, even with new allies much remains to be achieved to reach all of the children who continue to suffer. RIDE therefore remains strongly committed to its goal of eradicating child labor, in silk-weaving, as well as in other industries.
Education and Elimination of Child Labor
RIDE’s Bridge School centers and evening schools are central to our strategy to eliminate child labor. RIDE schools focus on education and nutrition in order to help create future generations in rural communities who are literate and healthy, who are positive about the future, and who have the tools to escape the cycle of poverty. RIDE’s Bridge Schools have had significant success in providing a pathway to mainstream education. 95% of students who commence at Bridge Schools complete the program and enroll in public school. Of these, 90% are still in attendance at the public school after 12 months.
Our program to end child labor includes:
- Support of economic alternatives for families; empowering women
- Camps for child laborers and released child laborers
- Day and night schools
- Seminars and workshops for parents, teachers and the general public
- Campaigns against child labor using posters and rallies
- School support and programs preventing child labor; parents-teacher associations
Prevention of Child Abuse
RIDE runs campaigns against child abuse and campaigns for children’s enrollment in school regularly throughout the year. In the months of May and June 2007, our entire team worked very hard to fulfill this most demanding task. We covered our target villages and the Kanchipuram municipality area. We are thankful to Andheri Hilfe of Bonn, Germany for their 7 years of support between 1998 to 2005.