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Ramananthpuram district, Tamil Nadu, India.


In 1989, the project holder, Mr. Sathaiah, Secretary of RWDS organized palmyra workers in Ramnad district into the Devipattinam Panai Thozhilalr Sangam. In 1990, Palmyra Workers Development Society (PWDS) extended its operations into Ramnad District, with establishment of AIRD (Association of Integrated Rural Development). In 2007 RWDS was formed with a view to bring a change in the life of the palmyra workers in 4 districts – Ramnad, Kanyakumari, Thoothukudi and Thirunelveli. The goal to organise the palmyra workers and campaign for their rights over livelihood, to ensure education and health facilities for palmyra workers’ children and to ensure control over common property resources. RWDS started addressing child right issues in 90 villages through strong community mobilization. From 2009 Mr. T.R. Chandran, a well known rights based NGO leader is the president of the board guided by Mr. Sathaiah who monitors the entire team and their work.


RWDS’s operational villages comes under Kadaladi, Thiruppulani and Mandapam panchayat unions in which palmyra workers are thickly populated. Palmyra trees are the major source of livelihood in Ramnad, besides fishing. They get comparatively low price for their products like jaggery; litter of toddy leaves, palm syrup, palm sugar etc. These products need more number of laborers hence there is high risk of using children in the work. From the total palmyra workers 80% to 90% do not have any land holdings of their own. They take palmyra trees either on lease or varam (rental) basis from the tree owners. The total number of children of 0-18 years in 52 villages is 9212. The major child rights issues include malnutrition, non availability of early childhood education to children, lack of infrastructure facilities, (Integrated Child Development Services) ICDS centres at long distances from hamlets and increasing dropouts and child labor in the area.


  • Reduction in child labor to 38% in the age group of 15-18 years in 52 villages.
  • In 10 village 100% children in the age of 6-18 years are enrolled in schools.
  • In 10 village 100% children in the age group of 6 to 18 years are retained in school.

Achievements & Impact in the Review Period

RWDS addresses the root causes of child rights issues among the palmyra workers community. Among CRY goals, health accessibility, malnutrition issues, right to healthcare, accessibility of schools and child labor issues are being addressed. Achievements in the review period include:

  • At the household level, face to face interaction was done with all 2417 families on ill effects of child labor and their issues at workplace.
  • 8 committees were formed with the parents of child laborers. They shared issues faced by their children at work that helped understand complexities of the issue & alternatives.
  • 115 sangam meetings and 5 cluster meetings were conducted on issues of child labor.
  • Resolutions against child labor was passed in 14 panchayats.

  • Database of all school going children collected who passed from Anganwadi; especially children in Grades 5, 8 & 10 to monitor re-enrolment. Household visits were also carried out to ensure enrolment.
  • 946 children met directly & motivated to continue education during the enrolment campaign.
  • 4 trainings conducted on the role of School Management Committee (SMCs) for sangam members and parents in 4 villages where 95 parents participated.
  • 327 dropout children were identified for children’s collective meetings.
  • 9 petitions were filed from 7 villages to the Chennai Corporation and transport department for separate bus for children as per the school timing.

Success story

14-year-old Anant of Pudugramam village in Tamil Nadu was usually at work before most of the inhabitants of his village awoke. He began each day cleaning farm tractors, before going on to drive them. It earned him a meagre Rs. 150 (US$2) for a full day’s work.

Anant was forced to drop out of school last year because his family couldn’t afford to pay the school fees. There is no government school near his village and the state-aided high school where he studied was charging Rs.600 (US$9) to Rs.1000 (US$14) in school fees from the 6th grade onwards.

Anant is an example of the thousands of children in India who are pushed into child labor once they finish their free schooling under the Right To Education Act. With no money to pay for higher education, and not enough qualifications to garner decent jobs, these children often end up working in jobs where they are prone to exploitation and abuse.

CRY America supported project, Rural Workers Development Society (RWDS) was alerted to Anant’s case. The community worker worked with Anant and his family and through continuous efforts, Anant is now enrolled in the government school. He has just completed his 9th standard and is looking forward to continuing his studies in the 10th. Because of your efforts and contribution, Anant is now on the path to fulfil his dreams.


This region is mapped as critical on child labor linked with education and health, through a process of community empowerment. The following are the broad plans:

[1] Education

Focus 1: Close child wise monitoring at household level to motivate children and families to continue education and prevent dropouts

  • Household visits to update the database of children who have completed their stay at Anganwadi; especially children in Grades 5, 8, 10 & 11 in order to prevent dropouts.
  • Organising enrolment drives in all 52 villages, with a focus on Kadaladi block involving school teachers, panchayat and sangam members to ensure retention.
  • Parents' group of children in Grades 8 to 12 formed in 5 villages, interactions strengthened with children’s groups from Grades 8 - 12 on education & ill effects of child labor.

Focus 2: Create an enabling and child-friendly environment in schools to ensure retention

  • Engage with 6 public schools in Kadalady block and ensure availability of special facilities for children with a view to address their special needs.
  • Focused discussions with teachers through trainings by SSA on prioritizing children at risk of dropping out & providing a positive learning atmosphere by constantly encouraging them.
  • Ensure regular functioning of the School Management Committees (SMC’s).

[2] Protection

Focus 1: Create a database of children from Grades 8 to 12, interact and engage directly with vulnerable children and families

  • Collect detailed list of children from Grades 8 to 12 in 52 villages and identify vulnerable children.
  • Household visits and interactions with identified children to monitor them during exams.

Focus 2: Detailed list of existing child laborers in 52 villages including families not under our coverage

  • Household level interactions to collect detailed list of all child laborers in the operational area, including children from non-reference families.
  • Engage with the identified child laborers and create a space for them to participate in fun activities and share their experiences

Focus 3: Focused attention among families on ill effects of child labor on the health of children especially girl children

  • Medical camps organised in 6 villages to assess the health status of child laborers working in salt pans and seafood processing units
  • As a follow-up to the medical camp, analysis done to understand the occupational health hazards for children working in these units
  • Organising PHC (Primary Health Center) level convergence meetings in 5 villages for enhanced access to health services for children/ ANC/ PNC

Focus 4: Enhanced understanding of the risks faced by the children of migrant families

  • Detailed study of the risks faced by children in the 11 migrant areas to capture the issues.
  • Direct engagement with families to share information on protection issues faced by children, household level interactions with migrant families to enable them to take necessary precautions for the safety of children below 6 years.

Focus 5: Engagement with the ICDS and Health department to provide a temporary setup for nutrition and health facilities for children during migration period

  • Discussions with the health department for VHNs (Village Health Nurses) visit to the migrant areas to monitor the health status of children/ ANC/ PNC mothers
  • To facilitate day care and supplementary nutrition supplies for children of migrant families below 6 years of age.


  • Right to Development
  • Right to Protection
  • Administration
  • Total Grant Approved