Adrienne Henck

Adrienne Henck (Backward Society Education - BASE): Adrienne graduated from New York University with a Master’s degree in International Education. After her graduation, Adrienne worked at PCI-Media Impact, an NGO that uses creative media and story-telling to mobilize people and communities in sexual and reproductive health. Adrienne also taught English for three years with the J.E.T. Program. When she undertook her fellowship, Adrienne was preparing to pursue a Ph.D. at Penn State University. After her fellowship, she wrote: “I know that (this) experience is going to have a lasting impact on my academic and professional career. I loved Nepal and plan to return as soon as possible. I definitely have a newfound appreciation for how much we have in America."

Children First: BASE’s Approach to Combating Child Labor

16 Aug

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. 

Paudel’s village is just one of more than 300 that have been designated as Child Friendly Villages in Nepal.Reka Paudel, 14, of Dang district, sings about child labor.  Kothari Village, where she lives, is one of 313 Child Friendly Villages in southwest Nepal.

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.Anti-child labor graffiti in Kothari Village wards off potential child labor brokers and reminds villagers of their commitment to protect children’s rights.

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.The Child Club of Kothari Village, a Child Friendly Village, unites against child labor.

Posted By Adrienne Henck

Posted Aug 16th, 2010


  • Claire

    August 18, 2010


    Adrienne, I was wondering whether the Child Friendly Village approach targeted also infrastructure for the kids directly, namely, schools and areas of play? Do you know if it also addresses economic factors such as teachers’ pay, and health care for the kids?
    It’s a really interesting post!

  • Adrienne Henck

    August 19, 2010


    As a rights-based approach, the Child Friendly Village model focuses on changing attitudes and behaviors related to child labor and children’s rights. That said, though, even if a community believes in protecting children and the value of education, if there is no roof over the school, they may still be reluctant to send their children there. Following the capacity development and leadership trainings that BASE has provided to many villages, many CFV structures, such as the CFV Committee and Child Club, have mobilized themselves to raise funds to support the education of the poorest children and former child laborers. Members donate 5 rupees (20 cents) per month to buy school supplies and uniforms for these children. So, the short answer to your questions is “no”. But I know that BASE would like to do more in terms of financing infrastructure, health care and other costs related to education. They just need a lot more support to do this. Thanks for your comments, Claire! Hope all is well!

  • […] them with training on leadership and advocacy. More info on CFV & Child Club can be found on Adrienne Henck’s blog. BASE Child Friendly Village (CFV) Signpost in Burigaun VDC, Bardiya District Photo by: Maelanny […]

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