In 1995, at only 12 years of age, Free The Children’s co-founder Craig Kielburger travelled to South Asia where he journeyed through sweatshops and back alleys, seeing first-hand the working conditions of child labourers. In 1998, with a small group called Free The Children, he set out to build a rescue home in India where freed child labourers could go for rehabilitation.
After many years of working in the country and building more than 100 schools, India officially joined our list of Adopt a Village countries in 2008. We’ve since seen incredible progress in the communities we work in. Free The Children is currently focusing on issues of gender equality, sustainability, capacity building, community engagement and building on local knowledge. We have successfully built and refurbished schools, health centres, organized women’s alternative income groups and more.
Our Adopt a Village projects in India take place in the Udaipur and Rajsamand district in the northern desert state of Rajasthan, which suffers from many environmental, economic and social crises. The girl child in India, specifically among tribal populations of Rajasthan, suffers from a great number of gender disparities—such as the highest female illiteracy rate in the entire country—which serve as barriers to human development opportunities like education. Child labour is also a rampant problem throughout the country and the region.
Did You Know?[table]
“46%”,”of Indian children under the age of five living in rural areas are underweight.”,”26%”,”of India’s population lives below the poverty line.”
“51%”,”of secondary school-aged girls in India attend secondary school.”,”65%”,”of women in India are literate, compared to 82% of men.”
“12%”,”of children in India aged 5-14 are involved in child labour.”,”60%”,”of girls have dropped out of primary school in areas like Rajasthan.”[/table]
Free The Children’s Objectives in India
- To combat child labour.
- Provide access to education for the indigenous, low-caste and most marginalized people of India, with the hope of breaking the cycle of poverty, help them fight marginalization, gain rights and access sustainable development resources.
Adopt a Village at a Glance
- School building
- Educational programming
- Community education
- Teacher training
Clean Water and Sanitation
- Hand pumps
- Hand-washing stations
- Water and sanitation education
- Water clubs at schools
- Watershed development
- Health education and outreach
- Mobile health clinics
- Construction of anginwadis (local health resource centres)
Alternative Income and Livelihood
- Women’s groups
- Animal husbandry
- Artisans training and product development
Agriculture and Food Security
- Kitchen gardens
- Agricultural training
- Seed distribution
- Crop irrigation
Community Case Study: Lai
Try and try until you succeed is a motto for the people of Lai. Their vision and dedication to create a better, healthier and self-sufficient community is an inspiration to the work Free The Children does in Lai.
The community of Lai in northwest India has a population of approximately 700 people, of which 250 are children. In 2008, the community had one local school with two classrooms serving just grades 1 through 3. The school was served by a single teacher and had no furniture or learning materials such as books or pencils. Enrollment was low, as was attendance. Additionally, girls were discouraged from attending school. Unsafe drinking water, improper health practices and little to no access to health care contributed to regular periods of absence.
Since 2008, Free The Children has built five classrooms, and expanded the school to Grade 5. This has brought in more teachers to the school. Happily, enrollment as well as attendance have both seen a steady increase. According to a local teacher, though 40 students were enrolled in the school earlier, it was common for less than five to attend. Now the school has five classrooms and over 160 students regularly attend. Community members are eager to send their children to school and speak out against child labour. Girls are now encouraged to attend school, which has greatly improved gender equity in schools with enrollment of female students at near parity to that of male students. Most importantly, overall academic performance has improved.
In the warm climate of India, water-borne diseases are easily spread. Cross-contamination of drinking water was a major issue in Lai. To mitigate cross-contamination, Free The Children has drilled wells, constructed storage tanks in the community and built hand-washing stations and latrines on school grounds. To ensure the sustainability of these projects, community members also receive sanitation education. Community mobilization around this issue has resulted in the community being fully involved.
Community members from Lai have also taken ownership over Free The Children health projects including care and management of the medicinal garden. Free the Children’s health programming in India includes both Ayurvedic (ancient Indian medical tradition based on Indian philosophies of health and wellness) and Allopathic (derived from western medical tradition) to provide both reactionary and preventative health care. In Lai, Free The Children has completely rehabilitated the local anginwadi – or local health resource center – and have been conducting disease prevention workshops in the community, as well as deworming students.
Women are leading the charge among projects implemented as part of the alternative income and livelihood pillar.Women’s groups empower women, make them self-sufficient, improve their confidence, spread awareness about care for common health concerns, promote education, and reduce the incidence of early marriage. In addition, these women are substantially increasing their yearly income through a special goat breeding program.