I never knew education is my right until didi from Bal Raksha Bharat told me. I use to think that education was meant only for the children whose parents could afford it. I never knew about the Right to Education Act, which ensures free and compulsory education for the children between 6-14 years across India. I started questioning my parents when I got to know about it. I started demanding my rights. Knowing about our rights is the first step towards changing our lives for many ignorant children like me. My life has changed from the day I realised that Education is my Right. I am now a Child Rights Advocate for other children in my community”, said 10-year-old Jhansi.Determined Jhansi comes from a very humble background. Her parents work in a small chilli farm in her village Gangavaram in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. They can’t afford to hire outside labour for plucking chillies, so on most days Jhansi would accompany her parents and help in chilli plucking. The working condition is terrible as due to the strong fume from the chillies everyone ends up with continuous tears in eyes and bad skin rashes. Image the plight of this 10-year-old in such condition.
Jhansi was all of 7 when the team member from Bal Raksha Bharat found her working in their chilli farm. The team got engaged in a conversation with Jhansi’s parents, followed by an exclusive interaction with Jhansi to understand what she feels about working in a chilli farm. Our team found out that like any child her age, she wanted to go to school, she wanted to play and enjoy herself. She was clueless about her rights as a child and so didn’t know how to excise her rights. Bal Raksha Bharat reached out to, many children like Jhansi, and explained to them about the rights of a child. Not only this our team also spend several days with the parents explaining them about the importance of education. We took the support of the local leaders in convincing parents to send their children back to school.
Almost after a month from our intervention, Jhansi was enrolled in school. Since then, there has been no looking back for her. She is a very bright student and not only academics, she also engages in many extra-curricular activities. She went on to become a member of Bal Raksha Bharat’s Children Group. With her pro-activeness, she earned the leadership role in her Group.
Bal Raksha Bharat strongly believes in creating multiple platforms and spaces, which help children to voice out their concern and issues. Child Group is one such mechanism, which is formed by the children, for the children and with the children. When children take centre stage, they lead the change by setting multiple examples for other children. Jhansi became an example for many children.
Due to COVID-19 lockdown, access to education got disrupted not just for her but for every child in her community. Most of the children are in confusion due to closure of schools, restricted mobility and fear of being infected with the virus. In the said circumstance, Jhansi came forward, like a champion, she took all the necessary precautionary measures and generated awareness among her next-door community members. She went on to call her friends and peers to generate awareness about Covid-19 prevention. The entire tele-calling was supported by Bal Raksha Bharat. Peer support is one of the effective measures that helps in reducing stress among other children. Post-relaxation of the lockdown, Jhansi went on to visit children at their homes to created awareness on handwashing and hygiene practices. She learnt all this through capacity building program of child champions that was done through tele-calling by Bal Raksha Bharat’s project staff.
*Name and image of the child have been changed to ensure the safety.