Sonia, 13, from child labourer to a top student in India
India is home to one of the largest child labour populations in the world. According to the Census of India 2011, more than 8 million children go to work every day rather than going to school. Apart from living in inhospitable conditions, these children work seven days a week and picking through garbage.
Sonia began collecting garbage at the age of eight. “After my parents migrated to Delhi from Rajasthan, we thought our lives would change for the better. But struggling to overcome our financial situation, there was no other option but for me to start working,” says Sonia.
“It was hard for me, especially because I thought that after moving to Delhi, I would get the chance to go to school and college. I struggled in the beginning to come to terms with this fact. But I never lost hope.”
Sonia soon came into contact with Plan International where she received counselling and encouraged to return back to school. Eventually, Sonia and her siblings joined a local knowledge enhancement centre and finally was able to enroll in a government school.
“Sonia is so active in class. The changes we have seen in her over the years are truly remarkable,” explains a Plan International staff member. Sonia and her parents have stopped collecting garbage and now live in a resettlement colony in New Delhi.
“Sonia was always eager to go to school and would cry when she was forced to work. As a mother, it was hard for me to see her like this. As for Sonia, this is the happiest she’s ever been and that’s more than enough for me,” says Nadeema, Sonia’s mother.