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FROM ROLLING 'BEEDIS' TO HOLDING PENS

The experience of the field visit conducted by the Rotary India Literacy Mission staff was so enriching that it not only justified our mission but also motivated and inspired us to take up these kinds of activities in the most deprived part of the communities.

Five-year-old Meeta thinks it is a game she must master quickly to be a winner. From the time she wakes up, until she goes to bed, Meeta watches her mother and all the girls and women in her neighborhood consumed in a frantic race: Making beedis - traditional hand-rolled Indian cigarettes.

This is the normal scenario in Dhulian a small town in Murshidabad. To create each beedi, the maker painstakingly places tobacco inside a dried leaf known as 'Tendua' sourced from a local tree; tightly rolls and secures it with a thread; and then closes the tips using a sharp knife.

For anything between 10 and 14 hours, regardless of how long it takes, Meeta mother and others must all roll at least 1,000 beedis to earn a paltry sum of money to spend a day.

A study released nearly three years ago estimated a scandalous number of over 1.7 million children are working in India's beedi rolling industry. Children are knowingly engaged by manufacturers due to belief that childrens nimble fingers are more adept at rolling cigarettes.Due to this pressure of work the children start dropping out from school or his/her studies gets badly affected.

Well to tackle this problem the NGO Marfat is focusing on ways to reduce the child labour problem or the dependence on children as work force in this area. For Asha Kiran, RILM and its partner organization Marfat is going to work for 650 children in Dhulian Town in Murshidabad District. Marfat had made a plan to screen 758 children in these 13 locations in 3 day from which RILM have selected 650 children for Asha Kira bridge course. All the proposed centres are located in such areas where there is a huge need and interest for education.

Though the children and community are interested in the project but after mainstreaming the main issue will be monitoring and controlling the drop out.

The NGO Marfat also wants to start Adult Literacy programme. They believe this will create the much needed averseness about the importance of education, mainstream schooling and to on the evils of child labour so that the Parents will also work as the agents in the community to change this trend in the Society.

The project has fully taken off from the end of April. The Asha Kiran program is going to bring an useful impact on the children of this region as most of the identified children are first generation learners. The program is going to have a long term impact on the lives of these children and in turn the community if successfully implemented.

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