Amongst the most pressing issues in the country, child labour continues to exist in every nook and corner of India. According to International Labour Organisation, some 10.3 million children are prey to this vicious cycle, out of which, sadly 70 per cent alone are girls.
One such child was Kanaka, who had spent 12 years of her life toiling as a child labourer. Born in the slums of Bengaluru, adversity and ill fate lead her into the throes of labour, stealing the most crucial years of her life.
With her father being physically disabled, Kanaka’s mother worked as a house help to eke out a living and somehow managed to send her daughter to school until class 4.
Unfortunately, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, leaving no other option for the little girl to drop out and shoulder the responsibility of her feeding her family by working in three houses.
Her mother soon succumbed to the deadly disease, forcing Kanaka to live with her relatives who put her through a trauma that was emotionally and physically debilitating and made her work in various wedding halls.
It was in one such venue, where Kanaka was spotted by the volunteers of SPARSHA, a non-profit organisation that fights against child labour. She was rescued in 2011, and today the 17-year-old is a first-year PU student in a private college in the city.
On November 20, Parliament of India will play host to 30 children from across the country for an event commemorating Universal Children’s Day, and Kanaka will be one amongst the selected kids.
The event is first of its kind with children being selected to speak at the Parliament for eight minutes and is organised by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
“There are thousands of children like me who have faced various kinds of abuses. Children in urban areas at least have people they can approach. But, there are children like me who suffer in slums and rural areas,” she told The New Indian Express.
The only person to represent Karnataka, Kanaka had undergone three rounds of auditions before being finally shortlisted. “I feel that though there are several laws to protect child rights, nothing is enforced effectively. I am going to stress the same in Parliament,” an elated Kanaka told The New Indian Express.
Having scored 80 per cent in class 10 boards, Kanaka aims of becoming a scientist in future, and we wish that her dream comes true.