CLAIRE PHILLIPS

Contemporary Portrait Artist


 

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Neha

90 x 120 cm
oil on canvas

Neha lives in Manabas, a small village in Rajasthan and one of the poorest in the region - fertile ground for the con-tricks of child traffickers. Before BBA’s involvement, large numbers of children worked and few attended school. BBA’s focus is on educating the villagers about the dangers of ‘uncles’ promising a better life for their children and empowering them to demand from the government their right to school facilities for all their children.

Manabas is now a ‘Bal Mitra Gram’ or ‘Child Friendly’ village. A village is only given this status when all the children attend school and have a voice in the running of the village through a children’s council. Two thirds of the children’s council leaders are girls, challenging the traditional gender inequality in Indian villages. BBA also educate and empower the villagers to improve health care, sanitation and village employment opportunities.

Neha, intrigued by my camera, but shy, peeks out at me, then ducks behind her older brother or mother. As the elders of the village proudly show us around, Neha follows at a distance. I drop back, leaving our guide to talk to the elders, hoping to catch the children at the back. The elders walk on ahead and the young mothers and small children emerge from huts, laughing and gesturing for me to photograph them and their babies. Neha plucks up courage as her brother swings her round. I’m guessing from her grubby yellow smock and tatty brown trousers that she is from one of the poorest families in the village.

Neha’s future is bright now – a childhood free from the threat of trafficking and child marriage; a future where education brings confidence and opportunity.