Power of a Pencil – The Story of Razia Sultan

Razia Sultan grew up in Nanglakhumba village in Meerut District, Uttar Pradesh.  When she was four years old she started working by stitching soccer balls, like many other children in her village. It was the norm in their village for the children to start working to supplement  their families income rather than attend school.  Families were even more resistant to sending their daughters to school. Razia’s father was one of these parents.  He did not see the need for his daughter to go to school.  He needed her to work and help support the family, even at 4 years old.  Fortunately for Razia, she was rescued by a non-government organization (NGO) and was encouraged to attend school.  It took her two years to break away from child labor and attend school with the help of an NGO. Picture1.b

Razia continued her schooling and completed primary and secondary schooling.  After seeing the benefits of an education and realizing how her future now had so many more opportunities because of it, Razia became a youth activist and began spreading her message against child labor.  First in her village and then outward, she even went door-to-door speaking to families to encourage them to send their children to school.  She was met with much opposition but was perseverant.  Even when many of the parents, adamantly refused, Razia would return to them repeatedly with the same message.  She took her time, but was quietly persistent and explain to the parents that they were limiting the future for their children.  These families only knew the life of menial work their entire lives and were passing this limited life onto their children.  When in fact with an education, their children’s future could be improved greatly.  She also found that in many families, the father or mother did not work and bring in income and made their children work to support their families.  In these cases, she worked to convince the parents, that if they worked and supported the family then their children could go to school and have a much better future.

By the time she was 15, Razia had changed the lives of 48 children formerly trapped in child labor.  She helped these children attend school for the first time and gave them a chance at a better future.  “Being a leader of the children in my village, I tried to solve the problems of the schools and the children. I admitted 48 students, who were earlier working as laborers, to schools,” stated Razia. In 2013, at 15 years of age, Razia Sultan became the first recipient of the United Nations Malala Youth Courage Award for Education. But her efforts have not stopped.  She continues to speak against child labor and is also now fighting for equal education for all children.  Children of families that were poor had access to an education that was far below the standards of the education received by that of children of wealthy families. Razia has reached families outside her village and all the way to Nepal with her message of education instead of child labor.  That pencil that was planted when Razia was a child stitching soccer balls has now flourished and now planting many more pencils…
More than 12 million children in India below the age of 14 are working as domestic servants, in stone quarries, embroidery units, mining, carpet-weaving, tea stalls, restaurants and hotels.

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