The Free the Children Initiative is a much needed social project. It aims to free children in developing nations from bonded labor and other forms of exploitation. The brainchild of Craig Keilburger, the project has attracted public attention in the United States and the rest of the developed world. The relevance of such an initiative cannot be overstated, for in the era of globalization, it is grossly unjust how children growing up in different parts of the world experience markedly different standard of life. The most important message of the initiative is how children from one part of the world help their counterparts in another part of the world. This way, a sense of global solidarity and fraternity is built into children at a very young age.
The Free the Children (FTC) – India Initiative has the basic objective of liberating children from child labor. But this cannot be achieved in isolation from social and economic factors that force children into work. Recognizing these links, the FTC India Initiative team has created necessary support structures to free children. First, they have provided sustainable opportunities for employment of women. By creating the necessary infrastructure for small-scale agricultural work, women are able to attain a degree of economic independence. This immediately reduces the pressure on children to work. The solar dryer installation in a village in Rajasthan is a good example of this success. I am impressed with how science and technology is thus introduced into rural India.
The FTC India Initiative does not stop with women empowerment, for it recognizes the need for educating children. The Initiative acknowledges that education is vital to empowerment. The children, having been freed from the burdens of labor are now offered good quality education in their villages. The infrastructure and facilities available in the school is much appreciated by the students. They are a great improvement over the government run budget schools. If not for the FTC India Initiative the children might have left only with low quality schools. I am especially pleased to see how local teachers are given special training so that they are up to speed with modern education methods.
The Free the Children Initiative in India has been successful wherever it had been implemented. A few villages in the province of Rajasthan were chosen as pilots. But the initial success in the pilot project can only be seen as a stepping stone. For just as India is a vast country with child labor being a rampant problem, there are many countries in Asia, Africa and South America that need redress to this problem. I believe that the few lucky villages where FTC is implemented should serve as a model and an inspiration.
It should be remembered that a group of volunteers and a handful of non-profit organizations cannot overcome an issue as deep-rooted as child labor. Ultimately, it is the government agencies that have to take up the bulk of responsibility to tackling this problem. Prodigious young people like Craig Keilburger cannot single handedly help solve a problem of this magnitude. Nor can an endless supply of donations and volunteers eradicate child labor. I believe that for eradicating the malaise of child labor from society political leaders across the developing world will have to make a commitment to the cause.