INDIA: Slave work conditions dire for girl-child beedi cigarette labourers

(WNN) Kadiri, Andhra Pradesh, INDIA: Five-year-old Aliya thinks it is some kind of a game she must soon master to be a winner. From the time she wakes up till she goes to bed Aliya watches her mother and all the girls and women in her neighbourhood consumed in a frantic race. They all make beedis – the traditional hand-rolled Indian cigarettes.

For each beedi, the roller painstakingly places tobacco inside a dried tendu leaf, sourced from a local ebony tree. Then they tightly roll and secure it with a thread. Then they close the tips using a sharp knife. They work like this between 10 to 14 hours. Regardless of how long it takes, Aliya’s mother and others must all roll at least a 1,000 beedis to earn a ‘paltry sum’ of less than 2 dollars USD.

As part of its global campaign to stand up for the rights of the child, Plan International India has launched the “Because I am a Girl” programme which will be focusing on girl-child labour in Andhra Pradesh, including girls involved in beedi making. The project is expected to collectively impact 1,500 girls over 3 years, but children trapped in beedi work will need to receive rescue efforts on a much larger scale