At the age of just 13, Roghini was taken out of school and forced into bonded labour to repay a family debt. For a long time, Roghini believed that her only means of escape would require her to take drastic action.
It all began when Roghini's sister became betrothed. Indian tradition dictates that all brides must provide their husbands with a dowry of money and goods at the time of marriage. In addition to this, Roghini's family home desperately needed repairs.
To pay for all this, her parents took out a loan of $50 and Roghini was 'mortgaged' to a family who made matchboxes in their home.
For a gruelling 11 hours every day, Roghini would sit cross-legged to fold and glue matchboxes. For every 1,500 matchboxes she made, Roghini would be ‘paid’ 30 cents. Of course, this was nowhere near enough money to buy food, let alone repay the debt, so often she went hungry.
Along with Roghini, 20 other children, mostly girls, worked glueing matchboxes in that dark, airless room. The man of the house often threatened and shouted at the girls, using obscene language that would leave them feeling worthless and humiliated.
Not surprisingly, Roghini became so depressed by her situation that she tried to take her own life. From her point of view, there was no escape from the endless work, no hope of ever going to school again and no time for fun or play. It all added up to an incredibly bleak future.
After she’d been working for three years, the local World Vision-supported Self Help Group (SHG) heard of Roghini’s plight and settled her family’s debt. Finally, she was free.
After her freedom was secured, Roghini returned to school. These days, she is studying to become a nurse and is a passionate campaigner for children’s (especially girls’) rights.
In India, women and girls like Roghini are the most vulnerable to exploitation because they suffer the consequences of gender inequality. SHGs in India provide a social ‘safety net’ for poorer families, so children are not forced into bonded labour during times of financial hardship.
Speaking out against child labour
Last year, Roghini was a special guest at World Vision’s Global Leadership Conventions (GLCs) in Australia. The GLCs give Australian students a forum to learn more about and speak out against issues such as child labour and child exploitation. They were inspired and privileged to hear Roghini’s story first-hand.
You can help too
Support children like Roghini who are exploited for profit by: Buying more ethical products and helping end their exploitation.
This was originally published on January 25th 2012.