Rakesh, India

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.'

 
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