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DELHI, India – Indian officials take pride in their economic partnership with Brazil, Russia and China – known as BRIC – which mandates that their constitution protect women and children.
But the reality on the ground doesn’t conform to the law.
The India Tribune reported last year that even though a 1986 law banned children under the age of 10 from working in manual labor jobs, there are over 60 million child laborers in India.
The report said many are sold and forced to work as slaves, including in the sex industry.
The Wall Street Journal reported just months ago there’s even been a cultural backlash against the idea that women should have equal rights.
The Journal said at least some of India’s political class has reacted defensively to reports of sexual violence against women. In the state of Haryana, for example, where there’s been a reported increase, local leaders have allegedly blamed everything from the consumption of chow mein to the idea that girls who aren’t married off by the time they are 16 are more likely to be raped.
In contrast, a group called Bridge of Hope, which has centers throughout India, is trying to meet the education and training needs of Indian families.
Narayan, a leader with Gospel for Asia who also directs a Delhi-area Bridge of Hope Center, says the work focuses on the Dalit people, India’s underclass.
“They’re under privileged and poor children. Their parents, their mothers and fathers have to work the whole day,” he said. “They’re neglected and unattended. They’re not getting the proper counseling or help in their life.”
Narayan, who uses only his first name for security, said his group also offers food and other necessities to enable them to carry out their education.
“Besides that, their teachers also occasionally go and meet the parents and give them counseling to they can build up a strong family,” Narayan said.
He said such centers in northern India already have helped close to 60,000 children – and their mothers are a concern, too.
Narayan said India has a long way to go to achieve a “decent status for womanhood,” and the centers are bucking history.
“Due to the ancient culture, the women are mostly deprived in their villages, in their homes, so this organization is taking the initiative through a women’s outreach program to bring their life up so they can have the fullness of life and live as a woman,” he said.
Narayan said his organization also provides women with job training so to help them escape poverty and care for their families.
One project hands out sewing machines.
He recalled one women who received a machine who had been unable to care for her children.
“Her husband died and they had no income,” the mission leader said. “We gave her a sewing machine, and now she makes $100 each month.
“That may not seem like much, and it isn’t to most Westerners. However, it’s enough to meet her family’s need in India,” he said.