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Ikea looks to more than double child protection programme

IkeashpIkea is again combining with Save the Children to protect almost 800,000 children from child labour.

The retailer's Ikea Foundation with Save the Children and its partners Breakthrough and Pratham have unveiled a Є7million programme to protect 790,000 children living in cotton communities in India. It is estimated that there are currently around 12.6million child labourers in India and the investment the second phase of a long-term programme which aims to keep children out of cotton fields, and in classrooms where they can learn, play, grow and develop and be children.

During the second phase, Save the Children, Pratham and Breakthrough will work with panchayat leaders, farmers, teachers, families and Indian state officials in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, to provide children with access to quality education, improve teacher training, develop local child protection committees and school management committees and tackle issues like gender based discrimination.

A study in 2008 revealed that prosperous Punjab has a large number of children working in the agriculture sector with an estimated 25% of them in cotton picking. Rajasthan and Haryana are not far behind, with 23% and 16% of cotton picking labour being children.

The expanded programme will build on the successes of phase one which was started in 2009 in more than 1,800 villages in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. The major accomplishments include: more than 600,000 children directly reached through education and child protection programmes over 150,000 children moved out of child labour and into classrooms; more than 10,000 migrant children moved back into their home communities; improved school enrollment rates in participating villages; nearly 2,000 teachers trained; 1,866 health and education workers trained in teaching practices, giving each village in the programme a skilled community worker.

The initiative will aim to tackle the deep rooted issue of gender based discrimination which starts even before birth. One of the areas of critical concern is of the declining child sex ratio in the states of Punjab and Haryana which are the lowest in the country - with figures of 834 and 846 per 1,000 male children (as per 2011 census), respectively. This initiative will help protect girls from these circumstances by establishing community groups that will champion girls' rights and awareness of gender based discrimination and ensuring girl's education.

Migration of child workers is a major issue in the state of Rajasthan, with children leaving their homes to work in nearby cotton regions. Based on a successful model pioneered in phase one, an inter-state migration network will be set up to identify migrant child workers and help them move back to their families, homes and communities.

'We know there is no quick-fix solution to ending child labour, but long–term approaches can yield impressive results,', says Per Heggenes, Ikea Foundation ceo. 'The Ikea Foundation, with our partners, has been tackling this issue in India for nearly a decade. This new phase reinforces our long-term commitment and our desire to help millions more children out of child labour and back into the classrooms.'

Thomas Chandy, Save the Children India ceo says: 'Ikea Foundation has been an invaluable partner to Save the Children to achieve immediate and lasting change in the lives of the most marginalized children. The expansion of the partnership means that many more children will attain the right to education, protection and development across India.'