From child labourer to certified skilled worker: How unions improve children's lives

Aasha, a 22-year-old young woman from a village in India's Uttar Pradesh State's Fatehpur Sikri, Agra District, was exposed to life's difficulties at a young age. She was made to work as a child labourer in order to support her parents, who were working in the stone quarries.

Fortunately, Aasha's life improved after she joined a primary school sponsored by a trade union. Under the banner of its campaign "Decent Work for Adults, Decent Education for Children," the Uttar Pradesh Gramin Mazdoor Sangathan (UPGMS) reached out to a number of worker communities to spread awareness on the issue of child labuor, which it said robs many children of their childhood, their dignity, and their opportunities while also being harmful to the youngsters' physical and mental development. The union advocated for workers’ rights and encouraged parents to send their children to school instead of forcing them to work. 

Aasha pursued her studies at the union-run school through the middle level after completing her primary schooling. With the help of the union, she received proper recognition as a competent and certified painter from the Paints and Coatings Skill Council (PCSC) under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in 2020. 

As the world marks Word Day against Child Labour, Assha reminded everyone that the ideal place for children is in schools where they can be equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and values to become engaged and responsible citizens and workers in the future. "This must go hand in hand with securing decent wages for adults, accessible schools, the elimination of social biases against girl children, as well as a firm belief that education and skills development can positively transform lives,” she said. 

“I want to thank the union for making me a certified skilled painter. I want to appeal to the government and parents alike not to allow poverty rob our children of their right to education and a good future,” Aasha concluded.