Vicky,10 years old, lives with her parents and 6 siblings in Benato, Madagascar. Her family has been working in the mica mines for more than 15 years. She started working in the mines when she was only 7 years old to support her family. Three years later, we rescued her from a life of misery. She is not working in the mines anymore. She is now back in school and determined to finish her studies.
Vicky and her family live in a small house with a small bedroom, where they all sleep together on the floor, and a kitchen where they cook food, if they can afford to buy any. They fetch water from the public well. The children do not have much space to play within the compound.
Vicky’s family has been working in mica mines for more than 15 years. Her father and mother worked there to support the family. Back then, they would earn approximately 44 to 132 Euros a day from extracting mica in a new quarry and selling it, which was enough to cater for their basic needs and buy extra essentials such as clothes and sheep. Sadly, there hasn’t been a new quarry for years. They now only make 0.88 to 1.77 euros a day if they’re lucky enough and this would be used to buy food (rice or cassava with greens) for dinner only. Life was very difficult for the family and they had no choice but to ask the children to help in the mines so that they could earn extra money to cater for their growing needs.
Vicky has been going to the mines since she was 1 years old. When she was 7 years old, her parents asked her if she could help them, that is when she first touched mica. She did not know what it is or what it is used for. All she wanted to do was help her family. On a normal day, she would filter mica and fetch water for parents with other children. She never got injured or sick in the mines. Sadly, with her new routine, her school attendance became irregular as she had to wake up at 6:00 am to go to the mines.
“We got nothing to eat so we had to follow our parents to the mines to get more mica to sell. Reason why I couldn’t attend school regularly, although I wanted to study, my parents couldn’t even buy copybooks.” Vicky narrates. Amidst her misery, Vicky was still determined to pursue her education and work hard to help her family get out of poverty and live a better life.
Millions of children like Vicky are subjected to a life in the mines in order to support their families, extracting and sorting mica everyday. They are constantly exposed to dust, which poses a health risk to them. They also lack the appropriate tools to go into the narrow shafts, working for long hours everyday. Young girls are often vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Growing up in the mines instead of growing up in school, affects their promising futures.
Luckily, in February 2022, when the FAMAHA project was set up in the area, Vicky’s life changed for the better. Her parents were sensitised on the dangers and effects of children working in the mines by the project team. They had the notion that the more mica they mine with the help of their children, the more money they would earn. Fortunately, after the sensitisation sessions, they realised that mica mining is indeed harmful to their children’s health and working in the mines would not help their children to grow up and develop well, but school would help them. Knowing that their children would be provided with school supplies (backpack and copybooks) along with lunch at the school canteen was a huge relief for them.
Vicky was finally able to go back to school and she was extremely happy. She now wakes up at 6 am, eats breakfast (rice mostly) and helps her mother to do house chores first since she only has classes in the afternoon. At 11 am, she goes to the school canteen for lunch and doesn’t return home since she has to study until 12:30. She studies Malagasy, French, history and maths. During the break she plays elastic games, and uses rocks to tell stories. Then she goes back home at 5 pm where she helps her mother with babysitting as her mother has to prepare and cook for dinner if there is any food available. Every Saturday, she goes to school to be with the other child rights club members. She gets to participate in some activities, such as learning more about children’s rights, working on math calculation and playing football.
“The project helped me to be better at school, I graduated to 3rd year in primary school now as I have and enjoy the school supplies I received.” Vicky says gleefully. ”Things are better than it was before. I don’t know when the support will end so I’ll enjoy and take advantage of it. Only hope things won’t be as it was before after the project,”she says.
The project team follows up on her six days in a week checking her school attendance. After 3 years of being a victim of child labour, and after 9 years of going to the mines, Vicky is now attending school regularly. Her family’s life has improved. Her parents are now selling items that people need in their daily lives earning approximately 15 euros per month. Through the project support, they are now breeding chickens and will sell them later once they multiply. Additionally, Vicky’s father now buys and sells sheep. He is no longer worried about buying school supplies for his daughter anymore since the project provided her with a backpack, copybooks and pens.
Vicky loves to be at school studying, playing games like football and elastic games with her friends, and singing. She hopes to buy a big stoned house when she succeeds in life.” I want to be a nurse/mid-wife so I can support my family in future.” she concludes.