Millions of people around the world were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, their situation even before the virus was already difficult. For the 75 families in a small village in Giridih, Jharkhand State, India, finding a livelihood has always been hard. Katty’s family is one of them. Her parents and three other siblings relied on mica collection - a dangerous practice that involves physical labour such as digging rocks and soil.
“I was very nervous about the looming uncertainty surrounding my studies and the situation of my parents due to the lockdown”, said the 16-year-old. Along with her siblings, Katty had a hard time being a regular in school due to the costs for the parents. As a result, supporting their mother and father in their daily household chores and work was a necessity.
In addition to being involved in child labour and stopping her education completely, Katty was also at risk of child marriage (which is often a practice in rural areas of the country). Her parents planned to arrange her marriage as they could no longer provide for the entire family, especially after the pandemic led to restrictions of businesses and workers. They also addressed that this would give them time to prepare for the younger sister’s wedding.
Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ programme in Jharkhand State aims to support these families from marginalised communities. Katty’s village belongs to the lowest level in India’s caste system, where most families live under the poverty line.
Through visits to these villages by Terre des Hommes Netherlands staff, children and youth at risk of child labour, early marriage, and sexual exploitation are identified and provided with support. For Katty, she was invited to join a child club and a self-help group, where children can share their feelings and are taught valuable lessons about child rights. Her parents were also consulted and informed about the law regarding prohibition of child marriage.
Through counselling and home visits, the parents were motivated to support their children’s education. By providing Katty with school materials and a bike, she is able to go to school. So that they are able to financially afford the other two children’s education, TdH NL provided the parents with a small financial support; training in small garden practices to sell their produce, and establishment of a small cosmetic shop business. They were also educated about the government’s welfare scheme, which they were eligible for.
“It was tough to survive and ensure our childrens’ well being. The lockdown further increased our difficulties and we were forced to compromise the future of children for the sake of survival. Thanks for showing us the way and creating an enabling environment”, said Katty’s father.
Many other communities in India are still at risk of child labour and child marriage. One by one, Terre des Hommes Netherlands is working with authorities and local organisations to identify families such as Katty’s and encouraging them to join self-help-groups and youth clubs through its programmes in India. With this programme, children and youth can pursue their education and future.