The IKEA Foundation is extending $10 million in grants to protect 3.55 million children in India, according to an announcement on Wednesday. Together with Save the Children, the Swedish retailer’s philanthropic arm will be expanding its efforts to fight child labor in the cotton industry by launching programs in the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, and Rajastan. The new initiatives follow efforts in 1,866 villages in Gujarat and Maharashtra, where more than 65,000 children aged 6 to 14 have been removed from child labor and enrolled in schools. Another 89,000 children under the age of 6 now benefit from a quality preschool curriculum, while 16,000 15-to-18 year olds receive vocational education and training.
With Gujarat and Maharashtra held as examples, the three new projects aim to repeat their achievements by improving the quality of education and reducing the dropout rate, boosting family incomes through access to government social security and rural work schemes, and raising awareness of the risks children face from working in cotton fields and factories.
A 2008 study estimates about 500,000 child laborers in Punjab, 350,000 in Haryana, and 440,000 in Rajasthan.
Punjab and Haryana are among India’s largest cotton-producing states, but they also have some of the highest percentages of children in their workforce—25 percent and 16 percent, respectively. In Rajasthan, one of the poorest Indian states, more than 46 percent of the children drop out of school. A 2008 study commissioned by the IKEA Foundation estimates about 500,000 child laborers in Punjab, 350,000 in Haryana, and 440,000 in Rajasthan.
“This is a natural step in our long collaboration with Save the Children to strengthen children’s rights in India,” says Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation. “If we can create more opportunities for children in developing countries by improving education and awareness of children’s rights, we can help these children break the cycle of poverty and build a brighter future for themselves, their families, and society at large.”