Rescued as a child labourer from Jharkhand’s mica mines six years ago, 20-year old Kajal Kumari from Domchanch in Koderma district appeals at United Nations to “global leaders to invest more in education to create opportunities for children that will enable them to come out of the grip of child labour and exploitation”.
She spoke as a child leader representative at the United Nations “Transforming Education Summit” in New York. The Summit is a key initiative of Our Common Agenda launched by UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in September 2021. On the sidelines of the Summit she also highlighted the importance of education at the 4th “Laureates and Leaders for Children” Summit. This is a brain-child of Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi as a first of its kind platform bringing together Nobel Laureates and Global Leaders to build a sense of urgency, collective responsibility and a strong moral voice to galvanize political will for making this world peaceful where all children are healthy, safe and educated.
Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, Former Swedish Prime Minister Stephen Lofven and Human Rights activist Kerry Kennedy were also present at the “Laureates and Leaders for Children” Summit.
Speaking on her past experiences as a child labourer and now as a young leader of Bal Mitra Gram (BMG or child-friendly village), Kajal Kumari stressed on the importance of complete abolition of child labour and child marriage in India and other parts of the world. She highlighted how the bitter experiences of these evil social practices adversely impacts the young minds and souls of children.
Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) is a unique model conceived by Kailash Satyarthi to prevent child exploitation like child trafficking, child labour and child marriage right at its source along with addressing other cross-cutting issues of education, child sexual abuse, water, sanitation, hygiene and livelihood by taking democratic actions to empower the community based stakeholders.
Elaborating on her story as a child labourer, she told the august gathering about her experience as a mica labour in the mines around her village to support her family at a tender age. After she was withdrawn from mica mines by Bal Mitra Gram she actively participated in it and was later elected as the President of the Children's Council (the Bal Panchayat). As President, she helped in withdrawing children from mica mines, enrolled them in school, prevented child marriages, raised awareness in her and surrounding villages and also helped the community obtain access to the governments' welfare programs.
It is noteworthy that the recent appeal by Kailash Satyarthi for a nationwide campaign against child marriage will give a huge boost to our collective resolve to fight against the social evil. Kajal as a child leader has successfully stopped 3 child marriages in her remote village and enabled 35 children escape mica mines. She has also enabled children in her village to continue their education through online classes when schools were closed due to COVID lockdown through mobile apps and tutored some students. She is currently a geography student at the Domchanch college and aspires to be a Police Inspector one day.
Kajal said, “Education is the key for children, as it allows them to break the shackles of illiteracy and poverty that forces them to work as child labourers or early marriage”.
In the past, Badku Marandi and Champa Kumari from Jharkhand have also made the state proud by representing the country at global stage and voicing against child exploitation.