New Delhi, 12, July, 2013; “Education and child labour share an inversely proportional relationship with each other. Education for all the children will remain a distant dream unless and until child labour is completely eliminated. For child labour to be completely abolished, free, compulsory and quality education is a must. Hence I appeal the Government of India to amend the existing Child labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, 1986 and immediately introduce stronger provision for the complete elimination of child labour”. These were the words said by Razia Sultan, who was awarded Global Education’s Youth Courage Award for education by the United Nations today.
She was felicitated as the United Nations' Special Envoy for Global Education's Youth Courage Award for Education on Friday. Her actions to stand up for the right of every girl and boy to go to school and learn, pawed way for her to be recognized as a leader and role model for youth across the globe. Her actions demonstrate the power of youth in leading the charge against discrimination and now she is in the same league as Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head for airing her opinions against the hardliner and fundamentalist view that banned education for girls in Swat Valley.
An activist with Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), Global March Against Child Labour's partner organisation, Razia’s life was not always this shiny. A resident of Nanglakhumba village on the outskirts of Meerut in western UP, Razia’s childhood was far from being a normal one. At the tender age of four Razia would stitch together little pieces of hide to make footballs. She said “My fingers bled whenever the needle pierced through them, it happened with many other children and some of them have suffered severe deformity due to this. Child labourers like us had no idea that players and businessmen made millions of dollars where as we were trapped in the vicious circle of hunger, servitude and illiteracy”.
Withdrawn from exploitative work in football manufacturing industry by BBA activists, Razia was enrolled in a school. She weathered many hardships in order to pursue her education. She has just cleared her class eleventh exams. Today, she is an icon of empowerment and courage. Her constant struggle has resulted in liberation of 46 child labourers in her neighborhood. She along with other rescued child labourers and activists have transformed nearly six villages around her into Child Friendly Villages. Razia has been a core marcher in Nepal March for Education which not only resulted in the recognition of education as a fundamental right by the Nepalese Government but also led to the formation of Nepalese National Commission on Child Labour
It was Razia who along with other former bonded labourers presented a memorandum of demands to the Honorable Minister of Labour during a national consultation organized by Bachapna Bachao Andolan in 2012. They demanded for complete ban on child labour and stricter provisions of penalty for defaulting employers. The Minister of Labour acknowledged that there should be a complete ban on child labour below 14 years and prohibition of employment of children between 15 to 18 years in hazardous occupation and processes. Razia is disheartened at the fact that 15 months have passed since the Minister of Labour gave his assurance on the matter, but the law is yet to be made.
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson Global March Against Child Labour, who nominated Razia for the award said “India has no shortage of passionate young girls and boys who will relentlessly fight against such social evils. These young leaders are struggling against all the odds to make this world a better place to live in. But these efforts are generally overshadowed by the glam and glitter of marketing gimmicks. I hope that this award given to Razia will bring many young leaders into light and their efforts will be acknowledge. ”