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A Real Life Hero

© Omesh Matta/ UNICEF/ 2008

Andhra Pradesh: Swarupa was only 12 years old when her father put her to work on hybrid cottonseed farms in Chityala, a small village in Parigi Mandal in Ranga Reddy district, Andhra Pradesh. Every morning at 7.00 am, Swarupa would start cross pollination of cottonseeds and work under the hot sun till 7.00 pm. She was allowed two breaks in these 12 hours, one for lunch and the other for dinner. For this 12-hour work Swarupa received a pittance of Rs 15.

While Swarupa’s job to identify flowers ready for pollination and cross pollination may have looked easy, it was not. Not only was it a tedious task needing great concentration, she was also exposed to harmful chemicals sprayed on hybrid cottonseeds while she and other children were still working on the farm, making her vulnerable to various ailments.

If this wasn’t enough, Swarupa was also sent to work at the home of her employer. She would go straight from the farm to the house to weed cotton for two hours from 7.00 pm -9.00 pm.

Swarupa had no choice but to work for two years on the farm because her parents had been paid money in advance for her services. The employers also resorted to ingenious methods like providing a TV or taking them to the occasional movie, giving them chocolates or ribbons to induce the children to continue to work for them. The seed farmers also circulated a myth that the cotton crop would get spoilt if the women did the work instead of young girls.

When MV Foundation began its work in this village to collect data about out-of-school children, they heard about Swarupa. When they told her about MVF’s Residential Bridge Course Camp for working children, Swarupa was so inspired that she joined the camp without her father’s permission.

When her father learnt about it he asked the camp staff to release his daughter. Fortunately, the MVF volunteers were able to convince him to allow Swarupa to stay in the camp.

Swarupa’s determination to study also helped tilt the balance in her favour. After studying in RBC, she was able to make a smooth transition into the formal education system.

In her village Swarupa is a role model, inspiring young girls to pursue education. Even her parents proudly explain how Swarupa overcame all the hurdles in her way.

Today, Swarupa works for telecommunications company (IDEA Cellular Phone Company). Education has changed her life completely.

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