Focusing on preventing child labour in the cotton area of Northern region, NGO-Save the Children, its partners Breakthrough and Pratham, and the IKEA Foundation unveiled a Rs 50 crore programme to protect 790,000 children living in cotton communities in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The programme to be implemented in four years(2013-2017), aims to keep children out of cotton fields, and in classrooms where they can learn, play, grow and develop and be children.
The program will cover nine cotton districts of Punjab and Haryana namely Bathinda, Muksar Sahib, Mansa and Fazilka in Punjab, Hissar, Sirsa, Fatehabad, Jhajjar and Rohtak in Haryana and Banswara in Rajasthan. According to estimates there are over 10 lakh child labour, working in cotton fields in these states mainly deployed in cotton picking.
Also, an independent research study in 2008 revealed that prosperous Punjab has a large number of children working in the agriculture sector with an estimated 25% of them in cotton picking. Rajasthan and Haryana are not far behind, with 23% and 16% of cotton picking labour being children. Rough estimates say that In Punjab there are over about 5 lakh child labour employed in cotton area, followed by Haryana (3.58 lakh).
The NGO-Save the Children, Pratham and Breakthrough will work with panchayat leaders, farmers, teachers, families and Indian state officials in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, to provide children with access to quality education, improve teacher training, develop local child protection committees and school management committees and tackle issues like gender based discrimination.
"We know there is no quick-fix solution to ending child labour, but long-term approaches can yield impressive results,'' Harpal Singh, Chairman, Save the Children, India explained, " This new phase reinforces our long-term commitment and our desire to help millions more children out of child labour and back into the classrooms."
Thomas Chandy, Save the Children's CEO in India, "IKEA Foundation has been an invaluable partner to Save the Children to achieve immediate and lasting change in the lives of the most marginalised children. The partnership means that many more children will attain the right to education, protection and development across India."
In the states of Punjab and Haryana, Save the Children will work directly at community level to form community groups and increase the reporting of child labour, linking them with the Government's Child Protection Services. Pratham will work at primary & upper middle school level to improve the learning levels across grades 3.
Breakthrough will generate communication material & provide information on gender discrimination at school & national level in two pilot districts, Jhajjar and Rohtak, and will train Save the Children to scale it up in all 7 project districts, which include Bathinda, Muktsar Sahib, Mansa and Fazilka (earlier part of Ferozepur) in Punjab and Hisar, Sirsa and Fatehabad in Haryana.
Considering Migration is a key issue in Rajasthan, the programme has been designed with the focus on reducing children migrating for work in the nearby states. Save the Children will closely work with other NGOs in the source and destination location to holistically tackle the issue of children migrating for work.