Madurai

To live, they need to fight

Young students from Dindigul aim to protect child rights and hope to eradicate abuse, marriage and labour for children.

Young students from Dindigul aim to protect child rights and hope to eradicate abuse, marriage and labour for children.   | Photo Credit: s

D. Rajalakshmi, a 15-year-old student from Maniyakaranpatti, a village located 15 km from Dindigul, says she vividly recollects the time when her close friend was about to be married off to a much older man. “My friend and I would always roam around together both at school and outside of it. Her parents one day told her that she would be married off and she had no choice. She too agreed. The incident left me shocked,” she says.

Rajalakshmi and her friend are both members of ‘Childvoice,’ a non-governmental organisation working for protecting children’s rights, and had attended sessions on child abuse, marriage and labour together in 2012. When her friend submitted to the institution of child marriage, Ms. Rajalakshmi says she took matters into her own hands. Although she tried talking her friend out of it, her parents were unapproachable, she says. “That is when I called the Childline service and they intervened,” she says. Like Rajalakshmi, three others - M. Santosh Kumar, M. Vishali and A. Jeyaprakash - are attempting to strengthen child rights in Dindigul. Their efforts have earned them praise fromUNICEF in November 2019 and most recently at Lady Doak College. Rajalakshmi and her fellow activist 17-year-old M. Santosh Kumar from Sangalpatti say the biggest problem they currently face is against child labour.

“Parents somehow think that their child and the family will have a better life if the child is sent to a big city for work. The child too is enamoured by the opportunity to leave the village and see the world. We have a responsibility to tell the ones around us about the terrible working hours and abuse there. So many boys have escaped from firecracker-making companies, matchstick units, cloth manufacturers with nothing. Our Dindigul boys are often sent to the north,” says Santosh Kumar.

One of the boys is Jeyaprakash. “I was about to be sent to Delhi,” he says. According to Jeyaprakash who was supposed to work as a ‘shop boy,’ the prospect of seeing a new city was exciting but only after his friend spoke to him did he realise the dangers. “I received counselling from my peers and my parents had a discussion with social workers. I am now back in school,” he says.

Thirteen-year-old Vishali who has begun the conversation regarding alcoholic and abusive parents in her village Viralipatti, says she and her friends aim to alleviate the underprivileged from regressive ideas perpetrated over generations. “We help our friends survive and spread the message of reaching out to Childline and the police because many of us are in broken homes. To live, we must fight,” she says.

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Printable version | Jul 3, 2020 4:49:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/to-live-they-need-to-fight/article30900000.ece

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