The family was poor the father at a loss as to how to make ends meet with six children his brothers he ultimately ran away even found his parents again but the activists found us and brought us back He understands Mohit and his despair Small children need to feel closeness Life with my parents was nice but if we had kept going on the way we were I would still be working on the street today he says Santosh is also one of the boys for whom there really was no future in returning to his parents The 15 year old comes out of school for lunch swaps his school uniform for a striped shirt and sits down on the floor in the dining room with his brothers About half of the children in the ashram attend school outside and the others are being prepared to do so in the ashram Santosh s story is typical for many child workers When he was ten years old a middle man came to his village and told his father Let me take your son with me He ll have a good life and earn good money The family was poor the father at a loss as to how to make ends meet with six children So he gave Santosh to the man who took him to a building 2 000 kilometers away where he was henceforth confined with 80 other children A bus took the children to a textile factory at 8 00 a m and back again at 11 00 p m Santosh had to sew T shirts For every little mistake we made we were beaten Mobile phones were distributed every few weeks and the children were allowed to call their parents Santosh begged his mother Please pick me up it s terrible But she didn t come The factory owner who had been listening beat him for it Don t ever say that again After two years the anti child labor activists came The police ultimately brought him back to his parents who wel comed him with the words We can t support you we don t have enough to eat ourselves The activists finally convinced his parents to let him move to Bal Ashram He s been here for three years Now in seventh grade he wants to become a policeman to help other children I didn t see the sun for two years No child should ever have to experience that again After lunch Mohit and his two friends do gymnastics on the play ground equipment they climb up a tree they race they do what chil dren do When they re allowed to It s already getting dark outside when Sachin opens his textbook in the ashram s library The slender boy with the purple shirt sits between Sherlock Holmes Nelson Mandela and Tom Sawyer and ruminates over accounting tables At age 15 he s already in elev enth grade he s ambitious a straight A student What we just heard in social studies is still on my mind he says What leads to poverty In the evening all children meditate together on the square in front of the school building after which it s time for culture according to the daily schedule if you want to you can perform some thing a song a dance Mohit Lakhan and two boys towering over them by half a head storm the terrace in front of the house which serves as a stage and strike up an angry tune We ve been sold beaten abused but that s in the past It s a protest song that was composed by activists in September 2017 for a 35 day march through Indiaagainst child labor The children stomp and raise their fists they re screaming the song more than singing it Kailash Satyarthi is right Nothing compares to the energy of youth The project The fight against child labor and for children s rights is one of the greatest challenges of social change in India The abolition of child labor has meanwhile become a central imperative on the agenda of the UN s sustainable development goals But without the courageous commitment of civil society actors there would be little progress This is why the Robert Bosch Stiftung has supported a prominent figure in the sector for several years Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi on whose initiative multiple child rights organizations in India have been established They include the Global March Against Child Labor network and the Indian non governmental organization Save the Childhood Movement These two organizations implemented among other things the project Child Friendly Communities in Rural India supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung from 2014 to 2018 Their aim is to completely abolish child labor in rural regions of India and to strengthen children s rights The Kailash Satyarthi Children s Foundation continues the project s work 37THE MAGAZINE 1 19

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