Learning Comes First
Many of us have come across a child who is working at an age when they should probably be in school. Child labour is highly prevalent in India, with over 10 million children below 14 years of age working to earn money, an appallingly large number. But on the brighter side, things are definitely improving with an over 30% drop in child labour around the world in less than 2 decades.
What impacts child labour?
Before we jump out of our seats to tackle child labour, let’s take a moment to understand what factors influence child labour in the first place. The two most important factors are poverty and lack of education.
In a labour intensive industry such as agriculture, every pair of working hands adds to output. In India, farming is largely traditional and requires many farm hands at work. With a shortfall of labour availability, farmers tend to employ children who are more readily available to do the job.
With advances in agriculture, farmers can gain access to the latest technologies and best practices in farming, reducing the dependency that agriculture has on child labour today. This will encourage parents to see that their children attend school and learn, rather than work on the fields.
Educating children can be key to keeping them off the fields at a tender young age. At Monsanto, we take the education of children very seriously. Through partnerships with NGOs, we work towards building a brighter future for rural children.
Our ongoing partnership with ‘Room to Read’ is focused on 3 areas to ensure the improved quality of reading in 11 government schools in Maharashtra. The initiative has directly benefitted over 5,000 students by providing them access to engaging learning spaces as well as high-quality reading materials.
While the government strives to make primary education completely free, school supplies still cost a significant amount. Here’s where a small gesture by our Hyderabad team helped over 100 financially weak students. Through an initiative called ‘One Notebook Please’, our team voluntarily collected notebooks from employees and distributed them to more than 100 students, helping them in their journey to learning.
Setting an example
It is not just through education that we counter child labour. Through stringent enforcement of anti-child-labour policy, we ensure our partner farms do not employ any children. Our Child Care Program (CCP) Steering Committee oversees efforts to monitor our business partners’ fields in the country. This helps us remove any child labourers younger than the legal age limit of 14 and encourage parents to enrol these children in school instead. The result? In 2016, none of our business partners’ fields in corn production across India had children working in them.
While child labour in India is decreasing only about 2.2% year on year, we still have a long journey ahead. It will take the collective effort of each and every one of us to ensure these children first learn, and only then earn a living. For many of us, childhood was a mixture of learning, fun and carefree joy. Let us now strive to give every child a gift of that experience, so that when they’re older, they can shoulder the responsibility of leading the country to a brighter future.