Anuradha’s Bhosale is a renowned grassroots women’s rights and anti-child labor activist based in the Kolhapur district, Maharashtra, India where more than 35,000 children are involved in daily labor for local industries. A former child-laborer herself at the age of six, she has spent the past 20 years fighting for the prevention of child exploitation, labor, trafficking, and female infanticide.
Despite being explicitly defined as unlawful in the constitution, child labor is deeply ingrained in Indian culture. It takes a very unique breed of courage to undertake changing an element of society that has become an institution.
In attempt to dismantle child labor practices, Anuradha began with a bold, three- pronged approach that involved whistle-blowing on the brick kiln managers who employ children, rescuing the children outright, and pressing government officials to follow through on their civic duty to uphold the human rights outlined the constitution. She held peaceful demonstrations, “created a lot of noise,” and made sure the local media were there to capture the story. Coming from the untouchable class herself, it was not surprising, that she was threatened every step of the way.
As director of AVANI organization, Anuradha has facilitated the rescue of 341 child laborers, provided 5,604 migrant children the right to health care and education, organized the construction of schools directly inside the brickyards and established a residential home for at-risk migrant children.
From the beginning, Anuradha recognized that child-labor was a cyclical phenomena oftentimes beginning with women in vulnerable positions. Searching for longer-term solutions to the root of the issues surrounding child labor, she founded the Women and Child Rights Campaign (WCRC), devoted to educating and empowering widowed, divorced and abandoned women–those at the greatest risk of sending their children into the work force out of necessity.
Working at the grassroots level organizing meetings in rural villages, Anuradha drives change by providing marginalized rural women and children access to information regarding their legal civil rights. She motivates them to unite, do for themselves, pursue education and act on their own issues.
In 2010, Anuradha trained 3,741 widows, divorced and abandoned women to petition and peacefully protest to receive the government entitlements due to them. She was successful in achieving this, thus reducing the need for women to send their children into the workforce.
While Anuradha Bhosale is visibly at the helm of the women’s right and anti child labor cause in her region, her message will always be rooted in the belief that long-term change and growth can only be accomplished by encouraging people to educate and do for themselves. Now empowered and motivated to unite on their own, rural women have continued to hold regular village meetings relating their rights. Anuradha has always spoken of her work as the building of a movement— instilling hope and courage for women to act on their own behalf is at the core of her life’s work.