Manish and his mother
Jun 26 2015

Unbound sees success in India on child labor issue

Manish spent a good part of his childhood stationed outside the East Gate of India’s famed Taj Mahal.

By the age of 5 he was working long days peddling trinkets: bracelets, beads or cheap keychains.

Selling on the streets is dangerous work for little kids. They can become easy prey for thieves or victims of speeding cars and motorcycles.

But Manish had little choice. He is the youngest of seven. His father works, but doesn’t make enough money to feed every child in the family.

“The future of kids who sell trinkets at the Taj Mahal is full of darkness,” said Abhishek Pandey, a social worker at the Unbound project in Agra, India. “They work hard, though they don’t get reasonable earnings from selling.”

The kids who sell trinkets don’t typically have the chance to go to school, so job choices when they’re adults are limited. Pandey says the cycle repeats itself when they grow up and have children of their own.

But after five years of hawking trinkets to foreigners, Manish knew there must be more to life than selling outside the East Gate.

“I saw children going to school,” Manish said. “I asked my mother if I could go to school, too.”

Manish and his mother, Shakuntla.

Manish and his mother, Shakuntla.

According to the United Nations, more than 200 million children are engaged in child labor around the world. India has the biggest share of those children going to work instead of going to class.

India has made progress toward reducing that number by passing new labor laws. Meanwhile, Unbound takes a personalized approach to helping children get off the streets and into a classroom through its sponsorship program.

Manish’s mother, Shakuntla, heard about Unbound through other mothers in their neighborhood and met with the social workers to determine if Manish was eligible for sponsorship.

“The moment I got sponsored, I stopped selling at the Taj Mahal,” Manish said.

Manish is one of more than 20,000 children in India who are able to go to school instead of working because they are sponsored through Unbound. His sponsorship helps his parents pay for his education and provide food and other basic necessities for the family, so the money he made selling trinkets is no longer needed.

Shakuntla is beyond thrilled.

“I am the happiest mother; my son goes to school,” she said. “His life has become disciplined. He studies, plays and does his homework.”

Manish is now 14 years old, in sixth grade and has plans to become an engineer so he can take care of his mom.

“I really feel good about my mother,” he said. “Because of her, I am studying.”

Give hope to someone like Manish. Sponsor today.

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