In this region of Rajasthan, it is estimated that 70 per cent of working children are out of day schools. They are shepherds, from labourers and workers in small carpet factories. Obliged to work to survive, they are not aware of their most basic rights. But today, in a small part of rural Rajasthan, these children are getting together. They have founded their own parliament, a Children's Parliament with real elected leaders determined to demand and exercise their rights.
The adventure started five years ago, during the International Conference in New Delhi on Child Labour. A 13 year old girl had captivated the assembly by her clear-sightedness. Upright and proud, in front of all the cameras of the world, she pleaded: Don't deprive us of our income. Give us the means to study instead so that we can become independent and stop being exploited because of our ignorance.
Soon after, thanks to the work of a community-based organization in Ajmer, the Barefoot College, fifty schools were opened to bring education to all child workers. At night time, generally after a hard day's work, those children who want to, can, for the first time in their lives, sit on a school floor.
Every year, 3,000 children elect their members of parliament, their government and their prime minister, all of whom have real power in their hands. At the beginning, the Parliament didn't intervene in the management of schools, but today, its members tackle many of the issues which affect the difficult lives of children in Rajasthan.
The fight against child marriage, the struggle against the exploitation of children, often have intervened successfully in community affairs.