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Anshu used to collect Mica and firewood all day, but she now gets to go back to school

January 17th, 2023
Anchu going to school with her bike

Anshu is 14 years old and lives with her parents and younger siblings in a remote, small village in Jharkhand, India. Due to its location, the village is a key part of the Mica supply chain, and it has been severely affected by left wing extremism in the last 15 years. Around 60 families live in this village, and they all live below the poverty line.

Action for Children in the Mica Mines

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area, Anshu was in class 8 and happily going to school. Then the pandemic made their situation even more precarious, as the prices of firewood and Mica went down about 50%. This impacted the income of everyone in the village, and due to a reduced income, Anshu’s parents couldn’t afford to send Anshu and her sister to school anymore. 

Anshu started helping her mother with the household chores, and she also began taking part in Mica and firewood collection activities. She and her younger sister stopped going to school completely in June 2021.

Luckily, Anshu was identified by the project staff Ms. Rupa Kumari in December 2021 during a home visit. The staff encouraged Anshu’s mother to join a Self Help Group, where she received support to start her own shop as an alternative source of income for the family. She received INR 8,000 (around 100 USD) in February 2022.

On the other hand, Anshu received educational support (notebooks, school bag) so that she could pass the board examinations, which she did in April 2022. She was also given a bicycle, as the only school beyond 8th standard was situated 6 km away from her village. Anshu’s younger sister also received educational support.

In addition, Anshu’s parents were informed about their eligibility regarding social welfare and social protection schemes. They then received financial aid in the form of two instalments of INR 125,000 (around 1500 USD) in June and July 2022, so that they could rebuild their house. 

Anshu was readmitted to school in January 2022 and passed her 8th board examination in April 2022. By June, she was enrolled in 9th standard. She is regularly going to school (for which the bicycle has been very helpful) and the Balmanch children’s club members monitor her attendance. She does not take part in Mica or firewood collection activities anymore, but she does help her mother with household chores. 

Meanwhile, the Self-Help Group still follows up on the progress of the shop set up by the family as an alternative source of income. Anshu’s mother runs the shop and occasionally collects Mica, but she stopped participating in firewood collection. She now gets to spend more quality time with her children. On the other hand, Anshu’s father helps run the shop and still collects Mica. He also works as a daily wage labourer in the MNREGA scheme whenever possible. The shop has allowed them to earn an average of INR 2,500-3,000 (around 35 USD) every month, and their average income has increased by 60-65%. They can now afford to pay for their children’s educational needs. 

“I am very happy to be able to continue my studies. It has been possible because of the support of the Balmanch club and the SHG. Thanks to TdH-NL for helping with study materials, the bicycle, and being with me and my family in coming out from the worst conditions in our life,” said Anshu. “I enjoy being in the company of the Balmanch club members, playing and learning together,” she added.

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