India's tobacco girls

World Day Against Child Labour, Davinder Kumar, Plan International examines the problem of young girls involved in the creation of beedis – the traditional home-made cigarettes – in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Five-year-old Alia thinks this kind of game; it must quickly learn to become a winner. Since then, she wakes up until she goes to bed, watching her mother, Alia, and all the girls and women in her neighborhood, consumed in a frantic race. They all do beedis, the traditional home-made Indian cigarettes. For each beedi, tobacco, roll carefully put inside the dried leaves of the tree obtained from local black, tight rolls and provides its thread, and then closes the tips using a sharp knife.

Workers between 10 and 14 hours a day, the mother of Alia, and others must roll at least 1,000 beedis each to earn the paltry sum of less than $ 2 (£ 1.28) paid by intermediaries. Beedi manufacturers, however, make billions of dollars. Rent beedis taken to the warehouses of major producers, where they are packaged and sold in the market at a much higher price. Beedi is a very popular and almost half of the total tobacco market in India.

In the town of Alia Kadiri in Andhra Pradesh alone, hundreds of families have relied on the generation of beedi-rolling as the only means of survival. The skin on the fingertips beedi-rollers becomes thinner Labyrinth, congested strip of slums are home to Kadiri assembly line of human functioning as robots. Young girls and women sit in the open air, swaying back and forth, speaking in raptures.

Many of them have developed strange muscle movements, as they push their performance to the edge of human limits. “The pressure to keep pace with the speed and the goal is so strong that many miss the food and even avoid drinking water, so they do not have to go to the toilet,” says Shanu, community volunteers.

Almost all of the beedi workers Kadiri, as in other parts of India, beedi production are women, many of them are young girls. Alia has already begun her lessons and practice rolling beedis using plain paper cuttings. “I want to roll beedis and give the money I earn to my mom,” she says. A study published nearly three years ago, an estimated number of shocking, more than 1.7 million children worked in India, beedi-rolling industry.

Children knowingly engage manufacturers who believe that their nimble fingers are better at his cigarette. Salma has jaundice, but it’s still rolling 1500 beedis day. Under Indian law, beedi rolling is defined as a dangerous job. But there is a loophole that allows children to help their parents in their work, which will be outside the scope of the law.

“Formally, it is women who take orders from contractors. However, given the pressure that women face in terms of delivery, invariably children, mostly girls drown in it to support their families in beedi-rolling,” says Anita Kumar Plan India. As part of its global campaign, “Because I’m a girl,” Organization for the Rights of the Child “has started a program aimed at girls’ work in Andhra Pradesh, including the girls engaged in beedi-making. The project will affect 1500 girls in over three years.

“We strive to create a model of working with communities and local governments, that children are not able to enter into this cycle of work,” Ms. Kumar said. From the unhealthy living conditions of exploitative wages, slave labor conditions and severe health consequences – beedi workers position entails a violation of their fundamental rights and freedoms on many levels.

Most of the girls that came out of school by the time they finish elementary school, to maintain incomes for their families. The youngest of four siblings, 11-year-old Salma dropped out of school last year. “I wanted to continue going to school, but we are very poor and struggled to pay the rent,” she says, struggling to take a breath.

Salma is suffering from jaundice and so fragile it can only sit up straight. Nevertheless, it is the task of rolling up to 1,500 beedis a day to feed his family. She is in dire need of medical care, but also to visit the local hospital means a day off work due to long queues and wages per day in transportation. Her parents could not afford any.

“No Protection”

Adverse health effects of beedi seen in all age groups Continuous beedi rolling leads to the absorption of large doses of nicotine through the skin directly. The skin on the hands of children begins to thin out gradually, and by the time they reach the 40s, they can not roll a cigarette anymore. The worst thing for the beedi workers feels that there is no security, no welfare, no government support.

In summer the temperature reaches 45C, the streets are covered in Kadiri stifling clouds of tobacco dust, as children play among piles of tobacco leaves. Covered in a puddle of sweat, young girls roll their eyes beedis freezes on tobacco tray. Older women who can not roll more help with ebony trim the leaves. Work continues until late at night just for a meal the next day and keeps a roof over your head.

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