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  • Writer's pictureVijay Singh

Bringing Generational Changes in Mica-Dependent Villages

Updated: Jan 15

Rajkumari: From Child Labour in Mica Mines to a Teacher and Mother Who Pledged to Protect Children from Exploitation

This is the story of 29-year-old Rajkumari. A teacher by profession, Rajkumari is also a mother of three, the two elder daughters being 6 and 4 years old and the youngest son being 15 months old. Today, Rajkumari has pledged to ensure that no child in her village, including her own children, ever has to face exploitation, the way she did. She is actively volunteering with us to make this a reality.

“I will make sure that my children and the other children around me go to school and achieve something in their lives. I will ensure that they never have to even think of working in the mica scraps collection. They should not suffer the way our generation, and the generations before us suffered when we were their age,” says Rajkumari.

A resident of Faguni, a tribal village in the Koderma district of Jharkhand, Rajkumari, along with other children in her village, was robbed of her childhood at a very young age.

Generational illiteracy cursed the entire village population with their only source of income being Mica scrap collection. The villagers, along with the children would leave the house at 7 PM every morning to collect scraps from the nearby Mica mines, only to return after 6 PM. School was a distant dream for the children and poverty forced parents to marry off their girls as soon as they entered their teenage.

Rajkumari’s sister, Phoolwa was also married when she was 13, and Rajkumari would probably have been the next in line to get married had our staff not intervened on time.

Rajkumari says, “I used to spend the entire day collecting mica scraps with my parents and used to think that this is what my rest of life be like. When I was 9, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation started working in our village. Their activists convinced my parents to allow me to continue my education instead of forcing me into child labour.”

The process of getting Rajkumari enrolled in a school was not easy. As the village did not have any schools, the children would have to be sent to another village to study, and parents were uncomfortable sending their children far away. The next logical step was to open a school in the village, which was done by our team and soon Rajkumari and a few other children started studying.

Very soon, Bal Panchayat (Child Council) was established in the village, and Rajkumari stood in the elections and became the Mukhiya (president) of the Council, and went on to become a member of the National Child Council later.

She led the members of the Child Council to visit every house in her village to identify out-of-school children, or children susceptible to child labour, child trafficking or marriage and ensured that they were enrolled in schools. Initially, she faced challenges, especially because parents were unwilling to send their children to school, as they thought of it as a loss of source of income. However, soon, changes were visible, and it was not long before all the children in her village were in school.

In February 2010 she participated in the ‘International Mica Conference Towards a Child-Friendly Mica Trade Intervention’ in New Delhi, where she spoke about how involving children in Mica mines snatched away their childhoods.

Since then, Rajkumari has not looked back. Today, she strives to make her village, and the nearby villages child friendly and ensure that the new generation does not have to face the exploitation and trauma she had to face as a child.

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