At her age, Anoyara Khatun’s life is a far cry from that of an average 22 year old.
Her genial face belies the grit, resolve and a fierce dedication to a cause that she strongly believes in, and one that has earned her recognition as a champion of children’s rights today. When you meet her, it comes as no surprise especially when you see that this gutsy girl has managed to transform not just her own life but also that of many others like her.
As a five-year-old in Sandeshkhali village in the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, Anoyara suffered a deep emotional setback when her father passed away suddenly one day. As he was the sole breadwinner of the family, the death proved to be a major setback for her siblings and their mother. She struggled through a difficult childhood and decided to drop out of school to look for work to help her mother.
As luck would have it, traffickers took advantage of her situation and sent her to Delhi where she got a job as a house maid with a family. Soon, things turned out to be scary, and nothing like what they promised it would be. She longed to escape. Thankfully, she didn’t have to put up with it for long as she was rescued by a children’s rights organisation who ensured that she was sent back to her family.
Once home, she realised how lucky she was and, in a moment of defiance against what she had just gone through, she decided to do something to save other children like herself, who were not as fortunate as she was! That’s when her journey as an activist began.
Anoyara knew poverty was one of the root causes for the girl child to be exploited so rampantly. In her district, she knew it would not be easy to stop a child marriage or keep families from sending their children with traffickers. So she formed a network of children’s groups in villages where the young learn about their rights and collectively intervene to stop cases of trafficking, child marriage and child labour in their neighbourhoods.
These children’s groups, each having about 10-20 members managed to stop as many as 50 child marriages from taking place. As these groups sprung into action, they rescued 80 child labourers, prevented 200 children from being trafficked and enrolled 400 children into primary schools.
In the initial years when she had started her work in her village, the villagers did not take her seriously. “I faced a lot of criticism, but now things have changed. People have started listening to me,” the young activist says.
In India, which is considered to be the home to the largest number of child labourers in the world, girls like Anoyara who challenge the status quo and work for the rights of children at the grassroots level are an inspiration for all. Her efforts may be like a drop in the ocean but every little counts because small changes create ripples that lead on to bigger changes at the social level.
Her journey as a champion of children’s rights regularly brings her in touch with many child activists from different countries who have suffered more trouble in their lives than her, but are now united in leading the fight for change in the society they live in. Each one working towards making a small difference in their own way. After all, every little helps!
Success is not final, failure is not fatal; It is the courage to continue that counts.
This post has been written for the We Are the World Blogfest, a monthly event created by Damyanti Biswas and Belinda Witzenhausen to showcase heartwarming stories of hope and light of real-life heroes from around the world, that show love, humanity and brotherhood in a world filled with negativity and hatred otherwise.
The hosts for this month are Damyanti Biswas, Simon Falk, Mary J Giese, Dan Antion and Shilpa Garg. Don’t forget to check out their WATWB posts and those of other WATWB participants to get inspired and feel a surge of positivity within you. You’re most welcome to share stories that you may have come across—particularly those that help spread hope and positivity.
Until next time, lets aim to stay hopeful and be positive! 🙂