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Published: July 28th 2005
Women in Uniform
The blue saree is worn (not everyday) by the women who are members of RIDE as a sign of strength, community and togetherness
Kanchipuram (Kanchi) is located about 50 km south west of Chennai and is famous for two reasons, temples and silk. There are over one thousand temples in and around Kanchi, we did not see them all (three was enough)! The second reason was the main driver for our visit. We heard of an charity organisation called the Rural Institute for Development Education (RIDE) whose aim is to take children out child labour in the silk industry and put them into education instead. RIDE give the opportunity to visit their headquarters, meet their leaders and be shown around the rural villages to view the impact of their work and meet the people whose lives they have helped to improve. In 1996 there were 40,000 child labourers in Kanchi alone. The only reason that the parents allow their children to work in the silk looms is because they are poor or they perceive that they are poor. The loom owner who has employed the child will pay the parents an annual rent, the child will work very long hours and receive no education and no pay. RIDE have a very good way of addressing this problem and at the same time addressing other
A loom is a very complicated machine, there is twine and silk everywhere. It takes 10 days to make one saree!
issues in the community. Through self help groups, women are brought together and taught how to better manger their families' finances, how to get jobs and save for a better future. For the families that are serious about adopting better practice RIDE will pay the loom owners to release the child so he or she can then go back into education. The parents are then encouraged to make savings and come up with business ideas or the woman finds a job to replace the money that they lost from the child's additional income from working on a loom. It is a very simple concept and has worked very very well, there are now less than 5,000 children employed in the silk industry and RIDE aims to completely eradicate the problem of child labour in Kanchi. It was really good to visit a rural home to see how they lived, it was basic but as with every Indian home there was a TV! We were shown a temple in Old Kanchi which had fantastic views over an empty lake. Similar to our churches, in times of war temples were often used as forts with this one being no exception, there was
Many temples are painted of 5 colours only. This was the new temple in the linear Old Kanchi, a small town of around 7,000.
even a secret hiding place for the king. We had lunch and dinner with Mrs J Britto (the Madame) who is the wife of the founder of RIDE which provided a great opportunity to discuss in more detail their aims, methods and most importantly, their successes. The silk looms are amazing devices and we thankful for being shown a few (being operated by adults), it takes on average 10 days to make one sari, which is a lot of work, the only reason the children were used is because they were cheap relative to adults and their small fingers fit work well with the complex looms which contain miles of thread. It was a really good experience to see how one persons vision can become a reality and make a difference to so many people, especially the children.
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