90 x 120 cm
oil on canvas
Neha lives in Manabas, a small
village in Rajasthan and one of the poorest in the region - fertile
ground for the con-tricks of child traffickers. Before BBA’s
involvement, large numbers of children worked and few attended school.
BBA’s focus is on educating the villagers about the dangers of
‘uncles’ promising a better life for their children and empowering
them to demand from the government their right to school facilities for
all their children.
Manabas is now a ‘Bal Mitra
Gram’ or ‘Child Friendly’ village. A village is only given this
status when all the children attend school and have a voice in the
running of the village through a children’s council. Two thirds of the
children’s council leaders are girls, challenging the traditional
gender inequality in Indian villages. BBA also educate and empower the
villagers to improve health care, sanitation and village employment
Neha, intrigued by my camera,
but shy, peeks out at me, then ducks behind her older brother or mother.
As the elders of the village proudly show us around, Neha follows at a
distance. I drop back, leaving our guide to talk to the elders, hoping
to catch the children at the back. The elders walk on ahead and the
young mothers and small children emerge from huts, laughing and
gesturing for me to photograph them and their babies. Neha plucks up
courage as her brother swings her round. I’m guessing from her grubby
yellow smock and tatty brown trousers that she is from one of the
poorest families in the village.
Neha’s future is bright now
– a childhood free from the threat of trafficking and child marriage;
a future where education brings confidence and opportunity.