Box 8.1. A programme in the carpet region of Mirzapur, India
The Centre for Rural Education and Development Action (CREDA) started its campaign against the employment of child labour in Manda and Hallia blocks of Allahabad and Mirzapur districts respectively in 1982. These two blocks were identified as having a high concentration of child labour. CREDA started working in 15 villages by providing facilities for free medical check-ups of the working children. This was followed by non-formal education classes after working hours. Then, an extensive awareness campaign was initiated through discussions, posters and other means of communication in four contact centres established for this purpose.
CREDA created awareness about children's rights and against the practice of child labour among the numerous community groups. Villagers in small groups, including the parents and loom owners, were brought to the contact centres to be familiarized with the legal aspects of child labour. Additionally, issues such as the negative effects of child labour on the health and development of children, the responsibility of parents and the community towards a better future for the children, the creation of a "child labour free" carpet industry, the rights of the child in the United Nations and ILO Conventions, and the idea of becoming a model village in the district, were discussed in small group meetings. Later, CREDA contacted the parents of working children through the mail, and organized rallies of the children demanding educational facilities, food and proper shelter.
CREDA worked out a strategy to involve all stakeholders of the carpet industry including the loom owners, carpet manufacturers and local government in its campaign against the employment of children. The most important aspect of the strategy was community mobilization through face-to-face interaction with individuals and groups. Through this interaction, awareness was created about the negative effects of making children work on carpet looms. CREDA identified activists and leaders in each village who were keen to contribute, and they were brought into all CREDA activities at the village level. Although many loom owners resented the villagers working for CREDA, they were unable to do anything about it because CREDA had gained credibility in the communities.
Receivers of the CREDA message included the following target groups:
Parents of working children. This group is the most important and central to the issue of child labour from CREDA's point of view. Convincing parents who want their children to earn and supplement the family income was the most difficult job. Apart from face-to-face discussions to educate parents about the legal provisions against child labour and the ill effects of sending children to work, the parents were also given assurances of protection by the state administrative machinery in case the loom owners threatened them for withdrawing their children from work.
Child workers. Members of the CREDA team met the child workers whenever they found an opportunity after working hours and informed them about the ill effects that carpet weaving could have on their health and their future, and about the special provisions made for their education and recreation in special schools. These efforts were aimed at encouraging them to join the special schools, where non-formal education and skills training were provided.
Schoolchildren. CREDA team members interacted with schoolchildren in the village and persuaded them to wean their friends away from work on the carpet looms. The children were briefed to provide details of the education they were getting, and to demonstrate the skills gained at school. Exhibitions on various aspects of child welfare and development were held in the contact centres for the children.
Neighbours. CREDA activists visited every family in the village and pleaded with them to discourage their neighbours from sending their children to work on the looms. This was part of the campaign to build community opinion against child labour.
Adult weavers. CREDA involved adult weavers in its campaign against child labour. They were urged to canvass quietly among their junior co-workers against working on looms, informing them that their work kept otherwise able-bodied adult workers out of employment.
Loom owners. CREDA teams visited the loom owners to familiarize them with the legal prohibition against employing children and the extent of the penalties prescribed for violating the law. Other effects of employing children, such as the possible loss of business and the loss of revenue to the loom owners, were highlighted in face-to-face discussions.
The village community and the panchayat: CREDA organized village-level meetings and involved the village community, particularly the panchayat (administrative) functionaries to collectively discuss the need to eliminate child labour and to put children into school. The role of the village community in implementing the law on child labour was emphasized in the meetings and the village panchayat members and opinion makers in the village were co-opted in the CREDA campaign.
Carpet manufacturers. Since the loom owners depend on carpet manufacturers for business orders, the role of the manufacturers became crucial in the campaign. Hence, CREDA also involved the manufacturers in raising general awareness against child labour and persuaded a large number of manufacturers to discourage the loom owners from employing children.