---Font Awesome icons---

One Family

Sumedha Kailash welcomed by the boys at Bal Ashram © Kalpesh Dobal

Sumedha Kailash welcomed by the boys at Bal Ashram © Kalpesh Dobal

This is the face of the future, a young girl we met in a village school for a formerly nomadic tribe, the Banjara, in Rajasthan, a northern province of India where the mountains and the desert join in an ancient landscape. Like all of the children in her Child-Friendly Village, there will be no child labor, trafficking or early marriage to rob her of childhood. Like all of the children in her Child Friendly Village, there will be no child labor, trafficking or early marriage to rob her of childhood. By the time she finishes her schooling, she will know her human rights and will become yet another voice in an international youth movement, 100 million for 100 million, the brainchild of Kailash Satyarthi, India's visionary human rights activist and 2014 Peace Laureate. This fall, the 100 million Campaign will March across India to mobilize the youth of the world. Another march for children's rights by the founder of the Global March to End Child Labor.

Children at the Banjara School © Sophia McCarron

Children at the Banjara School © Sophia McCarron

This is the time that the youth should take the rein in their hands. They should be in the driving seat. Hundred million people should be the spokepersons, voices, champions, change-makers and heroes for their hundred million left out sisters and brothers.

A movement is not an NGO with a limited mission for a specific goal. Kailash and his wife Sumedha established their movement Bachpan Bachao Andolan, almost forty years ago. Bachpan seeks nothing less than to eliminate child labor, human trafficking, child slavery and gender inequality in our lifetimes. The center of the work is Bal Ashram, a community of former child slaves founded in 1980 where lives are saved and each child is loved and valued. Bal Ashram is a hub of activism across the whole of India.

We went to India at the request of Sumedha Kailash to film the work of BBO and to live at Bal Ashram among the rescued boys. We joined a family where the older children comfort the young, where counselors play with new arrivals... where staff members have grown up and become mentors committing decades to the work, where village girls come for education and find their rights and voices in Sumedah's example and where children control the Ashram as part of the governing council, the Panchat.

Kailash greets Len at Bal Ashram © Sophia McCarron

Kailash greets Len at Bal Ashram © Sophia McCarron

Over the past 20 years, the length of our friendship with Kailash, we have witnessed child labor reduced by 80 million, we have seen access to education increase by tens of millions, particularly for young women and we have watched as global laws and international resolutions have been enacted to protect children. But we have also seen too many children, one billion according to UNICEF, sink into poverty as a result of greed and inequality.

 

For nearly three weeks we lived at Bal Ashram where we shared meals, daily routines, dance, music, education and advocacy with 57 boys ranging in age from 5 to 17. Bachpan has rescued from slavery over 83,000 children and liberated through other means another 250,000 over 30 years time, often at great personal risk to Kailash and staff. Enslaved children aren't paid and are held captive, it's dirty business worth hundreds of billions of dollars and the people who do this to children are evil.

Sumedha and Kailash © Jatin Makkar

Sumedha and Kailash © Jatin Makkar

 

The beating heart of Bal Ashram and the voice for girls in Indian society is Sumedha Kailash. We filmed her daily work and interaction with the children, her impact on them and the power of her love. We captured the essence of the woman who first caught the attention of a young engineer who had changed his surname to Satyarthi while renouncing a comfortable life or privilege, a prophetic choice that in Hindu means, "seeker of truth". Kailash promised Sumheda a life of freedom without the limitations of caste or the constraints religion. He was a young man convinced she was his true life partner. He got that part right.

Here are some of the preliminary results of our shoot. 100 hours of footage shot in state of the art 4K,  5000 stills- a library of footage we are donating to Bachpan in furtherance of their global mission. A film we will edit this summer that profiles the entire reach and vision of Bachpan and the roles reserved for children in creating a fairer world, a prelude to the 100 Million March.

We have met children, who days before had been enslaved in bangle factories, we filmed in rural villages, we went to schools, we met activists, we shot educational programs for girls, we filmed raid and rescue, but more than this, we were welcomed into a family, a fellowship of one humanity. The boys at Bal Ashram and the girls at Balika Ashram were once slaves, but they have now been rescued and they will raise their voices and return to their villages to see that no child is exploited as they once were.

Donate

Len Morris

Media Voices for Children, 110 Daggett Avenue, Vineyard Haven, MA, United States