Kamla was feeding Raju, her 2 year old grandson. Seeing a family photo hung on the wall, we asked her where Raju’s elder brother was. She tells us “Kishan tho sirf Chath ke time ayega….” (Kishan will come home for the Chath pooja). Kamla tells us that there are other children like Kishan in Badki village who go outside to work. It is necessary for them to do in order to augment family income. Travelling through Madhubani we learned Kamla’s account of her grandson was a story common in many homes. We found that older children and the men of the family migrated for work. Low agricultural yields, few job opportunities caused by closure of rice and sugar mills, and perennial floods, have precipitated migration, which has only increased over the last decade. Migration for labour takes place in more than 70% households in the district. In 2006, Madhubani was declared as one of the 250 most backward districts of the country by the Minsitry of Panchayati Raj.
The world knows Madhubani for its Maithali art—its depiction of village life, religious and mythological verses and for its proximity with Janakpur, the home of the goddess Sita. These do not however, even, begin to tell you half the story of the reality of life of this district which shares a border with Nepal.
Life deals a harsh hand to many children in Madhubani. A child protection assessment study conducted by Leher in Madhubani showed that children between 8-16 years migrate to work outside the district as domestic help, mechanics, waiters and cooks in dhabas. Anecdotal information from officials of the district indicate that many children are trafficked into Nepal for labour, and children are also trafficked out of Nepal through Madhubani, into other parts of the country. 39.5% girls getting married before they turn 18 years.
In 2014, Leher began work in collaboration with Sarvo Prayas Sansthan in communities in 3 blocks in Madhubani. We believe that families and communities care for their children. They do want a better life for their children, and would take actions to protect them if provided with the right support and options to do things differently. Over a period of time we aim to equip communities with awareness, understanding of their situation, skills to mobilize themselves, find ways to protect their children, and demand and monitor services for the care and protection of their children.
Stay tuned to our updates from Madhubani!