Poonam attended a government school in India until seventh grade. This was when her parents pulled her out of school despite her protests, so that she could work to support her family’s increasing household expenses. At just 17, her parents then made arrangements for her to marry a local boy.
Child marriage puts an end to childhood. It impacts young girls’ right to education and puts them at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Girls who are married as children are less likely to be in school and they struggle to earn money and contribute to the community. They are also more likely to have children while they are still children themselves and are more at risk of dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
It is estimated that 1.5 million girls under 18 get married in India each year, making it home to the largest number of child brides in the world. Dalit children, like Poonam, as members of the lowest caste in India are especially at risk of child marriage and face discrimination at almost every level.
Our programme in India looks to change this by creating protective environments for Dalit children in and surrounding Patna in Bihar State.
Children on the Edge works alongside local communities in some of the toughest places in the world to transform the lives of overlooked children by co-creating protective environments where they can safely live, play, learn and grow. To do this, we work closely with the people and places that have the most impact on the child: the family, classroom, community and society.
If families lack the resources to meet needs and solve problems, their children are pushed to the edge. They become poorly protected and are at risk of abuse, exploitation, exclusion and neglect, causing irreversible damage.
Inspirational children in Patna show incredible resilience as they support their communities through the pandemic.
Meet some of the children, who have shown incredible resilience and helped to support their communities through the COVID-19 crisis. Setting up small businesses to help support their families, ensuring children don't miss out on their education, making face masks for people in their villages and holding campaigns to spread awareness of the virus.
A member of the Children's Parliaments in India, interviewing another child for the survey.
World Children’s Day is recognised each year on 20th November. It is an opportunity to advocate, promote and celebrate children's rights and marks the day when the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
This is a promise made 30 years ago by governments across the world to do everything in their power to protect and promote children’s rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential.
Although the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown has meant that many of their regular meetings, campaigns and activities have been paused, the 10 Children’s Parliaments in Patna have quickly adapted to become an instrumental part of helping their communities through the crisis.
When we think of distance learning during lockdown, the images that often spring to mind are interactive whiteboards, back-to-back digital lessons and a variety of personalised online programmes. In the situations where we work, there are many distinctive barriers to simply protecting and connecting with children during lockdown, let alone delivering effective learning opportunities, but our partners are rising to the challenge.
My name is Nisha. I am 14 years old and I live with my parents, two sisters and one brother in a village in Patna. My father is a daily wage earner and mother is a sweeper in a private hospital. I was learning in a local fee paying school, but due to financial problems my parents had to stop my studies. When my schooling was stopped, I used to get bored sitting at home, but myself and my started going attending the NESWSD Learning Centre supported by Children on the Edge in my village. It is free and myself and my sisters have been going for the last two years.
Because of this, we are able to continue our learning. Visiting the school library I have learned to use my free time reading books and getting more knowledge in various subjects which will help me for higher studies. I also participated in a Storytelling Contest and I won the second prize! Now I am not bored at home. I don’t just gossip with friends now, I have very many good things to discuss with them and I feel that they value me.
All the children had to stop studies and be at home for the whole time. For two or three days this was okay for us. We were hopeful that the situation would change and things would become normal. But things got worse day by day and we had nothing to eat. Even though my father went out in search of food items; the prices of everything had gone up and he had very little money to spend. Whatever money he did have was gone within a few days and we had nowhere to go. We were so worried and fearful about how to live without any earnings.
Then I heard from the teacher of my Centre that they were preparing a list of students and families like ours who were in need of food. I asked my teacher to include our family in the list. Within two days they gave me a food coupon and I went to the place where the ration distribution was taking place. I was given a parcel including rice, dal, oil, soya baris, sugar, salt, soap and masala. Our family is very thankful for the support we received. Otherwise we would have starved during this lockdown.
Sahil lives in a persecuted Dalit community in Bihar State, India. Through the education and encouragement of his teacher at one of the Learning Centres we support here, he has not only realised his rights, but those of his wider community. Now he has become a teacher himself and is ‘paying it forward’ helping younger children to know their self worth and access vital services.
Through ten Children’s Parliaments, children are learning about their rights and responsibilities, developing leadership skills, learning about the political system and election process of their country and how to campaign about the issues that matter to them. Here are some of the highlights, from the Children's Parliaments over the past few months.
Bebe lives in Ambedkar Nagar Digha, with her husband and their children. She has been through unimaginable challenges as a mother, and the Women's Group she is part of has helped her at every step; brightening her life and supporting her to become a successful shop keeper.