Family life Working hard
Subashini (left) and
Sudarmathi is 14 years old and hopes to become a doctor. She attends the local
government girl's school. It takes 45 minutes to walk there – plenty of time to
chat with her best friends, Subashini and Rajeshwari. It's quicker when
Sudarmathi uses the family bicycle.
Sudarmathi studies hard. She's second in her class of 40 girls. Her favourite
subject is English. She competes with Subashini, who is also a good student.
They often study together. After school the friends enjoy playing games.
Sudarmathi has three brothers. Her eldest brother is completing a diploma
course. She sees little of him. Younger brothers, Subash (12 years old) and
Surinder (10 years old) rely on Sudarmathi's help to complete their homework.
Her mother, Kirubha, works long days as a housemaid in other people's homes.
This means Sudarmathi is responsible for many of the chores, which inlude
collecting water from the village tank each morning, cooking meals, cleaning
and babysitting her younger brothers. Her father, Ravi, has a medical condition
so he is unable to work.
Sudarmathi making beedis
Sudarmathi's family works hard to make ends meet. A few years ago, when Ravi
first fell sick, things became extra difficult. He needed treatment at the
hospital. They borrowed 1,500 rupees to pay for this. It was agreed Sudarmathi
would work making beedis (cigarettes) until the debt, plus interest, was paid.
She was 9 years old.
Sudarmathi describes what it was like. "Doing the same thing for long hours, my
fingers hurt, my legs got cramp and my back ached. If the daily target of 2,000
beedis was not reached, or I didn't do it right, the mudlalis (boss) would yell
at me, or even worse, beat me with his stick."
more about making beedis
Fortunately the family's situation came to the attention of Born to be Free
project workers. They arranged to pay the debt and for Sudarmathi to begin
transit school. She worked hard to catch up on missed schooling.
Sudarmathi's family still works hard to meet their needs. During the school
holidays, Sudarmathi works at the shoe factory. The days are long, 7am to 7pm,
and the work hard, cutting leather into shoe pieces. But it's worthwhile.
Sudarmathi can pay for her school uniform and help contribute to the family
Sudarmarthi's mother joined a Self Help Group (SHG). Kiruba pays a small
monthly members fee, to the SHG banking scheme. She explains how this helps
during a family crisis. "Being a SHG member means I do not have to send my
child to work. Instead I am able to get a loan from my savings for 1 per cent
interest, which I can afford to repay." The SHG also provides Sudarmathi with
Sudarmarthi has joined a group too – the Young Pillars children's club. She is
the treasurer. All the members are ex-child labourers. Together they work to
improve the lives of children in the area.
Find out more about Young
Sudarmathi can look back to a time when things were not good, but life is much
better now and she looks forward to a brighter future.