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Preventing child trafficking

In the rural areas of India, many children are missing. These children have mostly fallen victim to child trafficking. It is crucial to raise the awareness of the population about the rights of children. The whole village must work together in order to protect the children.


Country / Region / Place
India / Supaul, Araria and Katihar

Target group 
Marginalised young people and adults from 91 villages

Funding requirement 
CHF 823,680

Project duration 
01.05.2016 to 30.04.2019

Project number

Project objective
The population in 91 villages in three regions in Bihar is aware of the risks of child trafficking and knows about the rights of children, thanks to preventive measures. Parents and children are alert to the traps of the traffickers, the population has a good network, supports each other and is watchful. Marriages should not take place below the age of 18. Boys and girls all attend school – which is not at all common – and their presence at school is monitored.

Project coordinator
Jan Gruss, Tel: 041 419 22 51;

Asia / Europe


Background information

Although India is one of the world’s large economies, around one third of poor people across the globe live here. Nearly 70 per cent of the population live on less than 2 USD/day, and more than 35 per cent of the population have less than 1 USD a day at their disposal. Although equal rights of all citizens, the abolition of slavery and of children’s work, and the abolition of the caste system are all written into the constitution, the promise is not honoured in practice.

In Supaul, Araria and Katihar in the North Indian state of Bihar, entrenched feudal structures in the rural areas lead to bitter conflicts between large landowners who defend their interest by all means, and the landless, disenfranchised and impoverished rural population. The project’s target population consists of Musahars (rat-eating caste) and other low castes from 91 villages, who depend for their employment as cheap labourers on the high caste people. The latter often find it easy to bribe the authorities and thus get access to development programmes intended for the poor.

The population is extremely vulnerable: Living conditions are precarious, the health situation is alarming, migration is a common survival strategy. The population in the 91 villages is very young. As is well known, the proportion of girls is very low compared to boys, which is a pull factor for the abuse of girls. The figures for child labour and disappeared children are alarming.


What are we doing?

It began seven years ago with the severe floods in the Supaul District in Bihar. For months, families were unable to return to their villages. This emergency situation in the Supaul region was the start of Caritas Switzerland’s fight against child trafficking in Bihar. A survey established how many children were actually missing in the villages. With a view to the future, women’s groups were set up and special children’s centres were established, where especially girls could play, sing, learn to read and write, and where they could come to terms with the difficult time after the floods. The work in the centres has persuaded many parents that an education is important for the girls’ future. These easily accessible services are now being developed in all the villages in order to reach all children and to gradually enrol them in school. It is known from a study in the older villages how difficult the situation of the children and young people is. It showed the children’s, and particularly the girls’, vulnerability: Many girls were neglected, nearly one third of the children worked, and a large number of children in particular were missing. Almost 40 per cent of children did not go to school, because the schools did not function well and because many of them had to work.

It is essential to take measures against exploitative child labour, child marriages and child trafficking, and to increase awareness in the villages about children’s rights. The involvement of the villagers via families, networks and women’s groups in raising awareness is crucial. Village committees are set up to ensure the protection of the children, to deepen their knowledge about the exploitation of child labour and the mechanisms of child trafficking, and to know what they can do against it. The work in the ‘old villages’ was successful: In the last two years, none of the children in Supaul has disappeared, many working children were brought back and enrolled in school. Today, the population monitors the quality of the schools. This programme is now being expanded to the districts of Kathihar and Araria – and this will lead to greater influence being exerted on the municipal and district authorities and at the state level.

The Indian government has launched a programme for poor families, which guarantees households 90 days of income a year. It has adopted social programmes for widows, pregnant women, infants and school children and resolved to provide support – but these don’t reach the families unless the village population acts in an organised and assertive way. The goal of Caritas Switzerland’s partners is to turn these social programmes of the Indian government into reality, and thus to combat poverty – a central factor in child trafficking.

For the children, well-informed and watchful village communities, as well as active women’s and neighbourhood groups, are vital. Village committees and observation committees are given training, know the children’s basic rights and make sure that the teachers give lessons, that 90 per cent of children are enrolled by 2019, that the quality of teaching is improved and that the rights of children are respected. They are assisted by ‘barefoot lawyers’ in order to actively foster and deepen contacts with the village authorities, state bodies and law enforcement authorities and to put forward proposals and assert demands. Last but not least, they learn to hold the authorities to account, so that they act appropriately if the fundamental rights of children and young people are violated.  


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