Brainchild of our founder, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Bal Mitra Gram™ (BMG™) or Child Friendly Village is a flagship programme running successfully for almost two decades, empowering and protecting children across the country. The programme aims to prevent all kind of exploitation children including child labour, child trafficking, child sexual abuse, child marriage and others, at the same time ensuring education and empowerment of children in the rural communities.
The essence of the programme is child centric community development, where children participate in the decision making process of the village. A Bal Mitra Gram™ ensures a robust safety net around children, and ensures that every child is free, safe, healthy and educated.
In 2001, Sauthana village in Papri Panchayat of Jaipur, Rajasthan was made the first Bal Mitra Gram™ and the programme has now been extended to 540 villages. At present the programme is being implemented in six states across the country viz. Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, protecting over 72,000 children on a daily basis. Also, the programme has been replicated in three countries including Nepal, Uganda and Ghana by civil society partners.
of Bal Panchayat
Bal Mitra grams in india
Pillars of BMG
- No child in labour or being trafficked or married in the villages
- All children receive a meaningful and quality education
- Child leadership established through Bal Panchayat (children’s council).
- Bal Panchayat (Children Council) receives recognition of the Gram Panchayat (Village Council)
- Empowered communities including women and youth, marginalized and vulnerable sections which lead the child protection and village development
Formation of Bal Mitra Gram
Chronology of Bal Mitra Gram
awards and accolades
- The Diana Award, 2020 to BMG leader Neeraj Murmu (Jharkhand)
- The Diana Award, 2019 to BMG leader Champa Kumari (Jharkhand)
- Governor of Jharkhand Smt. Droupadi Murmu honoured BMG leader Champa Kumari
- Goalkeepers Global Goals Change Maker Award, 2019 to BMG leader Payal Jangid (Rajasthan)
- Japanese Award for Most Innovative Development Project by Global Development Network in 2010
Child leaders: Catalysts for social change
The story of Parshabad village, one of the remotest villages in Koderma district of Jharkhand tells us how the shackles of discrimination can be broken when children come together to demand their rights.
The Valmiki community, children and adults alike, had to grapple with caste based discrimination everyday. Public spaces like the local government school were not free from it. The principal and teachers were both mute observers and active participants who allowed the discrimination to continue unabated.
Children from the Valmiki community were not permitted to attend Saraswati Puja (Saraswati is the Hindu Goddess of art, knowledge and wisdom) held in the school for many years. This behaviour was normalized and nobody dared to raise questions.
This was so until the day when children of the Bal Panchayat (children’s council) decided that they could no longer tolerate this discrimination. With the help of grassroots social workers of Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF) the children devised a plan; they had to bring everybody together to raise their collective voice against these harmful practices. They began meeting school teachers, school management committees and parents to garner support.
After several conversations, the teachers decided to include children from all communities in the Saraswati Puja. However, within a short span of time, the children hit a roadblock. The principal continued caste based discrimination and refused to allow the puja to continue.
Undeterred, the children reached out to women and other progressive community members to collectively approach the Block Development Officer (BDO) and District Superintendent of Education Office (DSEO). They filed a complaint against the principal and after an internal investigation, the principal was transferred.
The children’s efforts bore fruit when they slowly saw things change in Parshabad. It has now become a model village where discrimination is not toleated. The children have since then worked on to ensure that every child in their community goes to school. They are proud to call Parshabad a child-friendly village.
Grit, Perseverance and Passion: Bal Panchayats prove that nothing is impossible
The West Pihra Panchayat had one senior secondary government school for the children of Neemadhi and other nearby villages. Inadequate public transport and inaccessible terrain was not the only issue that 910 children of this school had to face. Since their village was in a remote location, one teacher was appointed for all the children from the 9th to 12th standard. The quality of education was at an all time low but the community had no other option.
Nisha, a 16 year old passionate adolescent girl was impatient for change in the running of the local school. She couldn’t watch as girls remained out of school due to the lack of a female teacher. She held discussions with other children in her school and with Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF)’s help, she founded a Bal Panchayat (children’s council). Nisha and her peers started meeting parents and other community members to discuss the problem.
Adult community members of the panchayat extended their support to children’s endeavour and collectively approached the District Magistrate (DM) to file a complaint. The children diligently followed up with the DM. They submitted an application to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in one of its public hearings in August 2019 and invoked their right to quality education.
Moved by the children’s courage and their passion for education, the DM worked with the Education Department. In a week after the meeting with the DM, the Education Department appointed four teachers in the school. The Bal Panchayat did not stop here. Buoyed by their initial success, they continued pursuing their case with tenacity for two years to ensure appointment of more teachers. By the end of July 2018, four additional teachers were appointed in the school. In January 2019 and July 2019, four teachers and three teachers respectively were appointed to their school. In October 2019, on the order of NCPCR a female teacher was appointed in the school. The perseverance of the Bal Panchayat ensured the appointment of a total of 16 teachers in the school between December 2017 to October 2019.
Today, Nisha, President, Bal Panchayat, Neemadhi Village beams with pride when she talks about the improved quality of education in her school. She says, “The appointment of teachers has been beneficial especially the presence of a female teacher. There are some things which we are only comfortable about discussing with a female teacher. No matter how many male teachers are appointed, if we have at least one female teacher in the school, we girls feel secure and comfortable”.
Where there is a will there is a way: Transformation of Golgo BMG
Golgo, a small village of around 35 households in Domchach block of Koderma district, Jharkhand surrounded by dense forest and mica mines lacked basic amenities. It had no pucca houses, no electricity, road connectivity and no aanganwadi centre. Alcoholism had added to the woes of the households with men spending the little that they earned on buying alcohol. With mica mining being the only source of income, entire families including children could be found working.
Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF)’s Bal Mitra Gram™ Programme led by children took the initial steps that have led to a holistic transformation of Golgo. With stakeholders groups like Mahila Mandal, Yuva Mandal and the BMG™ Advisory Committee being put in place, every stakeholder got a chance to have their issues represented. Field activists were able to halt child labour and increase enrollment in school with other issues related to housing and road connectivity being addressed as well. The positive change soon led to more community members showing active interest to come forward and support field activists in co-creating solutions to resolve problems.
Education was of very little importance with the sole primary school housing just two teachers one of whom worked on a contractual basis. The teachers rarely came to school given they had to travel 7 kms. The school did not have a toilet and children did not receive mid-day meals. With parents being unaware of their roles in the School Management Committee (SMC), the institution had become dysfunctional for the purpose that it stood. Almost all the children dropped out after primary school with very few boys studying further. The efforts of the stakeholder groups and the Bal panchayat helped to ensure every child is enrolled in school. The progress of individual children are tracked to ensure they are continuing their education thus helping ensure girl children are enrolled in school. Further, the active participation of parents led to stronger SMCs helping solve many deficits in infrastructure. Today, the school has access to electricity, separate toilet facilities for girls in the school, classrooms with fans and benches for children to study. The village is also set to have its own Anganwadi Centre very soon.
Active engagement with the local government helped ensure that the villagers of Golgo were able to access basic facilities and social entitlements that were hitherto denied to them. They were successful at making the district government initiate a 2000 litre water tank construction and to get an approval to dig the existing well to an additional 7 feet deep. This helped provide the villagers with clean supply of drinking water.
The village community today feels more empowered and is now working together to create a child-friendly village where every child receives education and none is pushed to work in mines. The Bal Panchayat, with active support from stakeholder groups, has understood the true power of advocacy and networking with government officials. Today, Golgo is an inspiration for every other village aspiring to change.
Letters written by Bal Panchayat children demanding eduatiocational facilities in remote villages of India
As schools are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, digital and online classes have emerged as a new learning technique for children. However, there are millions of children residing in the villages of the nation who are deprived from this facility because of lack of resources like phone/laptops and also because of minimum or no network connectivity. To address this issue Bal Panchayat Leader’s carried out a signature campaign demanding continuity of education in the villages of the nation. A total of 15,267signatures were collected across 6 BMG states and the letters were sent to the Prime Minister’s Office addressing Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi. Additionally during the Laureates and Leaders Summit,2020 on behalf of millions of children National Maha Bal Panchayat President Lalita Duharia raised the demand of continuity of education for the children who resides in the remotest villages of the country in the presence of Hon’ble Union Minister of Women and Child Development Smt. Smriti Irani and Hon’ble Minister acknowledged this demand of children and said that efforts will be made to ensure the access of online classes to all children of the nation and community radio will be played to impart education in the villages.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in the daily lives of communities around the world. The impact on children has been severe and is set to get worse with the economic slowdown making them vulnerable to several forms of exploitation. This World Day against Child Labour a total of 1721 community members including Bal Panchayat children across 6 states pledged to take responsibility for protecting each child from all forms of exploitation by creating a safety net for them during and after the pandemic. They also pledged to support our founder and Nobel Peace Laureate Mr. Kailash Satyarthi’s vision to end child labour by 2025.
Badlav Ke Bol
The global pandemic has made communities vulnerable to economic shocks.
This increased vulnerability has led to an increase in cases of human rights violation and injustice. Our founder and Nobel Peace Laureate, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi has paved the way for compassion and motivation through ‘Badlav Ke Bol’, where he hosts weekly online conversations with children in Bal Mitra Gram™ and Bal Mitra Mandal. During these sessions children discuss their initiatives of ending child marriage, child labour and increasing enrollment in schools in their villages. They also share inspiring stories of successful campaigns collectively run by the community which in turn are shared by Mr. Satyarthi on Twitter.