Children on the streets, children in our homes and children in our offices; they are everywhere, working in some form or the other. From one menial job to next, in order to make those extra pennies in some cases, or to fulfil the wishes of a greedy guardian/caretaker in other. Child labour is all around us and unfortunately, we are becoming numb to it.
Even today, 11.8% of the children in India are engaged in some form of labour. Given that our country is home to 400 million children, the number of children in labour is staggering. Yet, it is rare that we take a minute to stop and question or even think about why the child in the tea shop around the corner or outside our car window at the traffic signal is selling flowers instead of going to school, playing with friends and eating a meal with his family. Child labour has become an all-too-ordinary reality, a kind of a blind spot, which many of us no longer even react to. Ujjawal Chauhan decided it was time to act and put a stop to the grim issue of child labour.
At 22, Ujjawal is a final year student of Ocean Engineering at IIT-Kharagpur. He is passionate about travel, photography and making a difference- in no particular order. It was in IIT that he started volunteering with CRY- Child Rights and You, an Indian NGO working with families and communities to ensure lasting change for India’s children for more than 30 years now. This summer, Ujjawal decided to set out on a journey that brings together all of his interests- Cycling for a Cause.
He left from Kolkata on 27th May and plans to cycle across West Bengal, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra to reach Mumbai by end-June with a bagful of stories and images on the lives and reality of children in labour in the heartland of India.
2,500 kilometres with a cycle and a camera for company is no mean feat; in fact some of Ujjawal’s friends and family are calling it a ‘Madness Project’. But Ujjawal sees it as a #Ride4ChildRights, a personal challenge that will allow him to raise awareness and funds for CRY’s work towards ensuring that every child goes to school, not work. “I am a huge travel and photography enthusiast and this summer driven by my spirit for adventure and support for CRY’s cause, I decided to embark on this journey hoping that together we can make a difference,” says Ujjawal in a video explaining his initiative:
He has also set up a Tumblr blog and a fundraising page so people may follow his journey and participate through donations, social sharing and messages of encouragement in his drive to stop child labour with CRY. Show your support now.
This journey by Ujjawal is a big contribution to the cause from a youngster who cares to think about the world he inhabits and brings a message for all of us who wish to see a better world: we need to do something about it. What are you doing today?