18-Year-Old ‘Sarpanch’ in Rajasthan’s Dera Village is Bringing School Drop-Outs Back to Classes

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Hailing from Rajasthan’s Dera Village, an 18-year-old is ensuring that children from low-income households go to schools. A large number of students were dropping out of their schools to become domestic helpers. These kids earn a couple of hundred rupees for some odd jobs. This money assured two meals a day for their families, however, at the cost of their future.

Lalita, who herself is a child, has rescued 57 children and made their parents re-enroll them in the village school.

“I along with other members of Bal Panchayat used to go door to door and convince the parents to re-enroll their child in school. We used to explain to them how important education is. However, some parents will ask us to leave and tell us that their child will work as a laborer like them to earn some money,” she said adding,  “Convincing children and parents for anything is always a challenge, but we keep trying. Since we visit their house, again and again, people finally understand that we want the best for them.”

At 18, Lalita Duhariya is fighting against school drop-out rates, child marriage, child labor, untouchability, and other issues impacting the lives of children and young adults.

Duhariya has been an active member of Bal Mitra Gram — an internationally recognized model for child-centered rural development — since 2015. Now, at the age of 18, she is leading the Bal Panchayat (Children’s council) as a Sarpanch.

Not many in her village used to take Lalita and her friends seriously in the beginning, considering they were dealing with major issues at a young age. Even though the journey has been difficult,  she said that people in her village have finally started showing support. She is influencing society by advocating for girls’ education, environmental sensitivity, health, and hygiene.

Lalita’s father is a construction worker and her mother is a housewife. She said that now her parents are supportive of the work she is doing but earlier when the villagers used to come and fight with her parents, they used to ask her to stay out of all these matters.