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For `Chotu’, Children’s Day is another day of suffering

In a chilling new film for My Choices Foundation, Dentsu Impact and Good Morning Films show us how prevalent child labour and abuse is.

A madam, chewing paan, and a man (her customer) are on a sofa, while young boys line up in front of them. The man checks them out and whispers something to the woman, who then remarks to one of the kids, “Chotu, ja.” You can guess how the tale proceeds from here.

Unfortunately, this tale is rooted in a dark reality, i.e., child abuse and labour are as common in India as the air Indians breathe. A report in The Hindu in April 2020 said that most online content on child sexual abuse comes from India, “with 11.7 per cent of the total reports or at 19.87 lakh reports…”

As per My Choices Foundation, in India, one out of 11 children is a child labour. In a film created for Children’s Day (November 14), we see young kids sleeping on the streets and then waking up to a day of work, nothing else. From working as rag-pickers to cooks and household help to selling tea and cleaning trucks… they only work, are yelled at and abused, and have no self-identity. All these kids are called `Chotu’.

The ad defines `Chotu’: A common nickname for kids in India, used primarily by those who illegally employ them in various kinds of menial and often hazardous jobs.

According to Anupama Ramaswamy, managing partner and national creative director of Dentsu Impact, the agency which conceptualised the film, each one of us can give them that voice:

“Seeing little children working to make ends meet is the worst form of pain. But we walk away, without reporting it. We need to help organisations like My Choices Foundation in whatever way we can. Because they work hard to help such children get back their life.”

“Why did we choose to launch the film on Children’s Day? We believe the contrast of using an occasion which celebrates children to highlight their suffering, will make the bitter truth come into the light more strongly. It is my hope that with more people understanding the message of the film, they will raise their voices against child labour, and help usher in change.”

Elca Grobler, founder, My Choices Foundation, adds, "Although there is much to celebrate on this Children's Day, we should also note that there are too many children who still do not enjoy full rights and free choices. My Choices Foundation tailors programmes to empower them, so they can make choices to live their lives free from violence, abuse and exploitation. We aim to see the transformation of India into a safe place for children, and we hope this film will help us do that.”

Shashanka Chaturvedi, aka Bob, of Good Morning Films, who directed the film, also gave his thoughts: “Anupama had mentioned this one incident to me on child trafficking, and it really shook me up. It was the driving force for me to make this piece. It’s something we need to address besides so many others in our society and create awareness. If we start by stopping child labour at home, at work, and everywhere else, this piece will have done what it needs to do.”

It was the late Nelson Mandela, Nobel laureate and former president of South Africa, who said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Towards the end of the film, a statement reads: This Children’s Day, let’s help Chotu get back his childhood.