The message of her song was clear: if we end child labor, all children will have the opportunity to become educated, and Nepal as a nation will prosper. Or so went the beautiful, self-written song performed by Reka Paudel, 14, at a recent Child Club meeting in Kothari Village.
Though Nepal has recognized child labor as a key human rights issue, the problem still persists. Local NGOs, international organizations and the government have employed varied tactics to combat the problem. Some approaches aim to improve the economic livelihood of poor families vulnerable to sending their children to work, while others focus on education. Many rural villages, though, are combining these approaches through the creation of child friendly spaces.
Child friendly spaces embody a commitment to protect children, end discrimination against them and support their basic the human rights. With the welfare of children as the highest priority, these kinds of approaches place an emphasis on child participation, community mobilization and the promotion of education.
Making Villages Child Friendly
The Child Friendly Village is a unique concept, currently being implemented in the western Terai, which aims to create and sustain child friendly spaces at the village level. The primary goal is that a village becomes child labor-free (no children are employed in the village and no village children are sent away to work) and that all school-age children are attending school.
Bachpan Bachpao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), a children’s rights NGO in northern India, pioneered the Child Friendly Village model in 2001. BASE (Backward Society Education) then adapted the model and began implementing it in 2007 in some of the most marginalized communities in Nepal. Approximately 10,000 people in Kanchanpur, Kailali, Bardiya, Dang and Banke, Districts are now living in BASE-designated Child Friendly Villages.
BASE believes it is possible to eliminate child labor through Child Friendly Villages. “This is one good way to eliminate the worst forms of child labor,” said Churna Chaudhary, Executive Director of BASE, “BASE’s role is to enhance the capacity of children by generating awareness of children’s rights. Once they understand their basic rights, the children themselves will mobilize to work against child labor and other forms of discrimination towards children.”
The Child Friendly Village model is critical in targeting rural areas and small villages which are the primary sources of children who move to urban areas to work as child laborers. Hence, effective anti-child labor campaigns must focus on keeping children in their own villages, preventing them from going to work as child laborers and making the communities aware of the importance of education
Freedom for the Children
“Before, many children did not want to go to school and some were child laborers. Now, because of the Child Friendly Village, children are going to school, and there is no child labor,” a Child Friendly Village Committee member from Surmi Katan Village in Kailali district reported.
Through structures such as the Child Friendly Village Committee and Child Club, villagers persuade parents to withdraw their children from work enroll them in school. By making parents aware of the illegality of child labor, possible punishments, international regulations and human rights standards, many have a change of heart that results in freedom for their children.
One woman from Dakshin Amarai Village in Dang District sent her daughter away but was convinced by the Child Friend Village Committee to bring her back. “We (the family) originally did this because we didn’t have land and needed money to survive,” she said, “my daughter worked from when she was 10 to 12 years-old. Now our life is more challenging, but I compared that hardship with my child’s future and was convinced to bring her back. I was also convinced when I learned about the laws and that I could be punished.”
BASE’s Child Friendly Villages and child labor rescue initiatives have freed approximately 1,000 child laborers since 2008.
A Holistic Approach
While other NGOs working in Nepal such as World Education and MS Action Aid, as well as various District Development Committees, have also embraced child friendly education approaches, BASE’s holistic village model uniquely addresses the multidimensional child labor problem. Child labor is not only a cause but also a consequence of poverty, illiteracy and lack of human security.
Through a rights-based approach, the Child Friendly Villages aim to achieve both social and economic community development.
The right to education underpins efforts to provide quality education to all children. According to BASE Child Labor Program Coordinator, Pinky Dangi, “If we teach children about their rights and ensure they receive an education, then it will impact their future and be more sustainable.”
Many villages have also united under the structures of the Child Friendly Village to implement infrastructure projects such as road maintenance and sanitation improvement. These projects impact the development of children, enabling them to have happier, healthier lives.
The ultimate goal of the Child Friendly Village program is the complete eradication of child labor and the achievement of the United Nation’s “Education for All” Millennium Development Goal.
The Future of Nepal’s Children
The Kothari Village Child Club, of which Paudel is an active member, is working to increase local people’s awareness of children’s rights and fight against child labor. They currently perform very successful street dramas and hope to incorporate other kinds of cultural performances, like song and dance, to their anti-child labor repertoire.
“I am not a child laborer, but I work too much in my home because my family is poor. Also, I have seen others involved in child labor so I want to end it,” Paudel said, “Every opportunity should be available to all including good quality education.”
Though the fight against child labor must happen on many levels—local, district, national and international—the collaborative efforts of BASE’s Child Friendly Villages is likely to have a significant, positive impact on the futures of the children of Nepal.
Posted By Adrienne Henck
Posted Aug 16th, 2010