Tanuja lived through the harrowing experience of being a child domestic worker after she left her very poor household in the Mouli Kalitala village of Malancha in India, for the city of Kolkata.Working in extremely hazardous conditions, Tanuja almost lost hope of returning home.

Tanuja was eventually rescued by the Child Protection Committee in September 2013 and enrolled in the Save the Children supported Malancha Multi Activity Centre (MAC). After receiving learning assistance and counselling Tanuja was able to re-enroll in formal schooling and has remained in her studies since then. Now 18-years-old, she hopes to become a social worker in the future.

Working to combat trafficking and child marriage

The journey home was not easy for Tanuja, who faced incredible stigma when she returned to school. Despite this, she remained resolute and mobilised the support of her local community, especially girls like herself, to combat abuses against young women.

An active member of the Children’s Group in her area since 2014, Tanuja has helped prevent 32 women and girls from being trafficked, been involved in the reunification of 15 trafficked girls with their families, and prevented 7 early marriages in four villages. Tanuja even stopped her own marriage last year.

She is thrilled to be having an impact in her community by empowering other children, and is currently preparing a list of all the children who are drop outs from school, working hard to ensure they are safe and return to school.

National recognition

Tanuja is also involved with other organisations including the Lalitha and Babu training module, working with adolescents.

On the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, she attended the press meeting on the publication of “Impacting Lives: Tracing Initiatives for Combating Child Domestic Work in West Bengal, India”. The publication captures more than a decade of history about the movement against child domestic work in West Bengal, steered by Save the Children and its partners.

Tanuja made a strong appeal to the government, civil society and the general public at the launch, asking them to protect girls from all forms of abuse and exploitation. The national media covered her calls to action in a special story, and she has also received an award from the Government of West Bengal on National Girl Child’s Day in January for her bravery and contribution to empowering girls like her.

Today, Tanuja is committed to empowering children, especially girls, from her village. She draws her inspiration from the peers who support her in fighting against any form of violence and abuse against children.