Tag Archives: Save the Children

Child Rights for Change; Ashraf’s Story

Ashraf Chauhan is 31 years old and works as a Project Officer for Saath’s Child Rights for Change rural initiative. Ashraf was born Bhavnagar, a coastal town in Gujarat. At a young age he felt compelled to do something for his community. He witnessed that his community had to deal with various social issues and that there was a lack of proper education. He obtained a masters degree in Social Work (MSw) with a specialization in Rural Development at the university of Bhavnagar in 2002.

After his studies he started working for ‘Kutch Naw Mirman Abhiyan’, an organization that worked in the areas of Kutch that were affected by the devastating earthquake of 2001. It was during this time that he got introduced to Saath. Saath’s first rural project was relief work in the villages of Rapar and Khadir in Kutch. The programme ran from 2001 to 2004.

In 2009 Saath started up the Child Rights for Change programme funded by Save the Children and Ashraf was hired as the project officer for this programme. The Swedish Company Ikea realized that most of the cotton they purchase from India comes from cotton-farms that employ small children. They tied up with Save the Children and started a programme to eradicate child-labour. Saath runs this programme in 120 villages in Viramgam and Dholka, two districts in rural Ahmedabad.

Ashraf says that it’s really fun to work with kids. He thinks it’s very important to create awareness about child-rights, because children are the thriving force for future development of the country. They (the child-rights for change team) have achieved one significant milestone so far and one milestone in-the-making. A certificate of appreciation has been signed by 1,500 farmers in the area. The certificate states that the farmers won’t hire children to work at their farms. The second achievement is in process. It is a resolution that will be signed by the panchayat of all the participating 120 villages. It states that no child in their village will work.

Ashraf sees the change happening. You can see the effect of the programme in the numbers of children going to school. Before the programme started, all children were working at farms. Nowadays, from the 10,000 children, 6,000 are out of child-labour. The remaining 4,000 children combine working with attending school. Ashraf hopes that those kids will also find their way out of child labour.

The thing he likes most about his job is giving awareness trainers to farmers and parents. It’s very awarding to see the change happen in the parents. Convincing parents is almost the most difficult part of his job. It’s very tough to persuade them to bring their children to school. Many villagers don’t see the benefits of education. Their children will have to learn how to work anyway and they don’t learn that through school. Besides, they need the extra income. Firstly he tries to persuade them by pointing out short-term benefits. He explains to them that their children will be provided with a nutritious lunch at school every day and that they are in a save, protected environment while the parents are at work. Ashraf also tries to change their mind-set to a long-term perspective. At school children will learn important things that they won’t learn on the cotton-fields. Children that receive proper education on a regular basis will be able to find better jobs at the right age. The cycle of poverty can be broken by education. The farms will also benefit from educated employees. Better educated staff will be able to manage the farms better and bring new solutions and fresh ideas to their businesses.

Next to trainings he also likes to participate in developing new strategies with the eight partners that are involved with the Child Rights for Change Programme. Through working for Saath Ashraf has been able to profile himself as a good trainer. He has built a valuable network with the local government and NGOs. In the future he would like to continue the work he is doing now: helping more children out of child labour.

Ashraf (right) at a meeting with a child protection committee in Viramgam

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An Escape to the Countryside

Eva, an amateur photographer and true Indiaphile, visited our Child-rights for Change programme in Viramgam, rural Ahmedabad. She  photo-documentated the child-rights programme and, between the clicking, interacted with the children and development activists. Read her story below. Her pictures will follow shortly after!

Escaping from my busy Dutch life, I tried and found some peace and relaxation in vibrant India. A visit to the rural area around Ahmedabad really helped putting things into perspective. It provided me with the colorful and happy feeling that I was hoping for.

Starting out in Ahmedabad and leaving the urban life filled with malls, markets and many, many people and vehicles, we slowly got into the surprisingly green fields of the Viramgam district.

At Saath’s rural office we enjoyed a freshly prepared lunch and Ashraf starts explaining the Child Rights for Change* program that we are about to visit. After this lunch, we were welcomed in a primary school class. Twenty children were sitting in a semi circle and greeted us as we walked in. We took our seats and four girls performed a dance, telling us a story of their daily activities. As soon as they were finished dancing, a well organized conversation started, informing us how the program was working out. Four of the students have been picked to look after the presence of the others. Apparently, that seems to be a very effective way of keeping children in school in stead of working in the fields. Later that day, we learnt that the drop out percentage is under 1%. The program really works.

As soon as we were trying to leave, it was very difficult to find our way through the crowd of very Eva (at the right) in Viramgamenthusiastic children. Then, one of the children tells us how he really would like to see and touch American dollars – being the symbol of all foreign currencies. I did not have dollars, but I handed him a 2 Euro coin. The coin goes from one hand into another and the children awed when hearing the equivalent of this one coin in Rupees (being approx Rs. 120). I wonder what they are thinking. Is this western money and the world it represents something they are dreaming of? Or not? I hope their dreams are about improving their lives by little steps, starting by joining classes.

The most spectacular thing – for me – were the people living in the villages. Taking their portraits, I was stunned by the pride and honesty in their eyes. I am convinced that SAATH adds extra meaning to the existence of these people and reconfirms their natural pride. These people – in turn, are passing these values to their children. Experiencing a day like this made me feel humble and hopeful for future development of rural areas in India.

* Child-rights for Change is a programme implemented by Saath and funded by Save the Children. The programme aims to create awareness about child-labour in 120 villages in the blocks of Viramgam and Dholka, rural Ahmedabad.

Visit to SAATH’s Save the Children project

This blog post was written by SAATH intern, Luciana Hoshanna, after a visit to Laliya, one of the villages where SAATH and Save the Children are partnering to curb child labour and set up Anganwadi pre-schools. 

When arriving in the village, Laliya, we find a group of women waiting patiently for us next to the local Anganwadi (informal pre-school). These women have come to participate in the health campaign.

According to the government Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), children from 0 – 6 years of age, teenage girls, pregnant and lactating women have access to some health education, nutrition and vaccination. SAATH has been providing these services in partnership with Save the Children. The local population, however, sometimes doesn’t understand the importance of taking proper care of their health, and refuse to take the vaccines, they give the children’s nutrition supplements to the cows and don’t take care of themselves during pregnancy.

This campaign, through talks, discussion, games and movie screenings show the women the importance of these services and encourage them to take full advantage of them. Along with some biscuits and tea, the women learn more about their health and the importance of staying healthy for their children.