Robbed of childhood, their 'labour' of love now lies in educating others

Shankar and Sabeena Banu, who were once school dropouts and child labourers, are now members of ‘It’s Time to Talk’, an international agency which campaigns against child labour.

Shankar and Seema were working as child labourers to support their families but today they feel empowered as they work for the cause of deprived children.

The two, both aged 17, are members of ‘It’s Time to Talk - Children’s Views on Children’s Work’. As members of the campaign they visit various places across the country including New Delhi to create awareness about child labour and other issues pertaining to children. The campaign has members from 37 countries and aims to support the voice of working children from different contexts and facilitate it to be heard and considered in local, national and global meetings on child labour.

Sabeena says every child has a dream and having been a child labour herself, she is aware of the plight of such children. “Being a victim of child labour myself, it’s my duty to create awareness about the ill-effects of child labour. Education is the key to eradicate the social evil and governments should provide free and compulsory education till students complete II PUC,” she says.

While Sabeena was working in an incense manufacturing unit in Mysuru, Shankar was a flower vendor. Sabeena discontinued school when she was pursuing class V to support her family. Similarly, Shankar had to give up studies after his parents died.

Thanks to the city-based Rural Literacy and Health Programme (RLHP), an organisation working for deprived children, the two got a chance to become a part of mainstream society.

Sabeena says that when she was working in the incense unit, a few volunteers of the RLHP noticed her and made all necessary arrangements to continue her education. “My mother was the breadwinner for the family. When I was in Class V, we faced severe hardships and thus I started working. I had to then give up my dreams of getting an education,” she says. Sabeena has now completed first PUC and has also completed basic courses in spoken English and computers.

Shankar says that members of the RLHP contacted him and took him along with them during one of their field visits. “I was admitted to Asha Kiran, a shelter house for boys, and I started going to school. I completed SSLC and applied for ITI,” he said. Shankar is also trained in organic farming and is well aware of farming methods.
 

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