Rakesh represents slave children, children in hazardous labour, and children who ‘don’t exist’ because their birth was never registered.
These are excerpts from the story about Rakesh when he was a jury member:
“When I was about 6 years old, I was taking my parents’ cattle out to graze with my friends when a man offered us sweets. I ended up being kidnapped and forced to work as a slave for 6 years,' says Rakesh Kumar, from India. He is now a member of the World’s Children’s Prize jury.
When we ate the sweets that the man gave us I felt something was wrong and got scared. I shouldn’t have gone off with a stranger without telling my mother. The sweets had something bad in them that made us too sick to run away from him. My friends and I were put on a train. I began to cry. I knew that we were being kidnapped and I tried to run away, but I was caught and told that I would be in a car accident if I tried it again. All of my friends and I were sold to rich people. I felt powerless because I was just a little village boy. They moved me to different houses until I got to a place where I was forced to work as a slave for 6 years. I was given tea with drugs in it in the mornings. If I refused to drink it, I was beaten and forced to swallow it. I worked from five in the morning to about ten at night. I had to keep the house clean for the family who owned me. They had children who went to school, but I had to work. I had to cut the grass and often cut my fingers, as I was dizzy from the drugs in the tea. Sometimes I would pass out in the field, but nobody cared. I carried bricks and tried not to complain so I wouldn’t get beaten. The nights were hard for me. In the winters, they gave me alcohol to keep me warm instead of letting me into their home. I had to sleep outside in the cowshed and tend the animals on top of my other duties. The warmth from the alcohol didn’t last long. I felt cold and lonely. I would cry at night thinking about my parents. My father searched for me for years. He was told that I was dead, but he didn’t give up. They threatened to beat him, but he asked for help from an agency that rescues children from slavery. After a long search they were able to save me. I am now at a rehabilitation centre where I can play and attend school with other boys who have had similar experiences. Children should not be forced to work as I had to. We have rights.'