Prior to Unnati’s interventions, the rights of children in Udaipur District were being routinely violated. Child labour and child trafficking were common and Unnati had recorded over 1,000 cases of out-of-school children. The region’s geographical location meant that many children were sent to the Bt Cotton fields in Gujarat for seasonal migration. Children were forced to work under excruciating heat for hours at a time with little to no breaks and very little pay. They regularly faced violence and abuse from bosses.
The Khilta Bachpan (or ‘blooming childhood’) programme aims to build and promote a protective environment for children and reduce child labour in 76 villages of Udajpur District. The programme focuses on building local institutions so that they have the capacity to prevent children from migrating for work and ensure that children are enrolled in school. This is achieved through:
- Creating and strengthening local structures, including Village Level Child Protection Committees (VLCPCs), Panchayat Level Child Protection Committees (PLCPCs), School Management Committees (SMCs) and Panchayat Standing Committees.
- Creating awareness among the community on the harms of child labour and the importance of education.
- Linking vulnerable children and families with government social protection schemes that reduce the need for child labour.
Child Protection Committees track each individual child within their area, and work with other stakeholders to ensure that those involved in migrant labour are returned home and enrolled in school. As a result of this, communities and village level government officials have learnt the importance of protecting children’s rights and creating a safe environment, along with the means to do so.
Recently, Unnati has also been involved in the formation of Block Level Child Protection Committees. These oversee the work of Panchayat and Village committees, and act as an intermediary between the committees and the state government.