From holding knives to wielding pencils
From slaughter houses to classrooms, from holding knives to wielding pencils, from fear to hope. The children of the Qureshi community in Parbhani, a region 200 kms east of Aurangabad district of the south-western Indian state of Maharashtra, have come a long way.
With a little help from UNICEF, the children who used to work in slaughterhouses following the footsteps of their fathers and forefathers can now dream of a new life.
In a matter of just four years UNICEF in partnership with non-government organisation SETU Charitable Trusts, ParbhBefore the project was launched, a survey in the area revealed that all children belonging to Qureshi community were working in the abattoirs in Parbhani.ani Municipal Corporation, Qureshi Association and local self-help groups has brought about a monumental change in their lives.
Eleven-year-old Irfan was one of these child workers whose day would begin at 4 AM with a long walk to the slaughterhouse along with his father. “I used to feel very scared of the screams from the animals as they were being killed. I would tremble with fright,” he recalls.
The revelations of the survey led to the launch of the project aimed at putting a stop to the age-old tradition of children working in the slaughterhouses.
Today, Irfan has finished school and plans to learn driving or electrical work through one of the schemes offered by the government.
The elimination of child labour and the rehabilitation of these children was by no means an easy task. The community was socially mobilised through religious leaders, community stalwarts, community volunteers, and resident community volunteers.
A motivated cleric, Khwaja Moinudin, even admonished the parents, saying: “For too long you have lived off the earnings of your children. You should hang your heads in shame. Give your children their childhood back and honour your responsibilities and duties to them.”
UNICEF-SETU project coordinator Rafique Rehman said: “We kept persisting and going to the homes of these children. The parents finally agreed to send their children to school after they realised we were genuinely trying to help them.”Since 1998, the UNICEF-SETU Project has rescued and rehabilitated 480 children from slaughterhouses
The first batch of 94 children rescued from the slaughterhouses went on to start their own businesses. Today, no child works in the slaughterhouses.
Influential religious leader Maulana Quresh Khyajah Moin-uddin sums it up when he says: “God willing, we will not go back to the old ways and this good work will continue to benefit everybody in the community.”