Rahul is a junior teacher at Akshar Forum. He is eight years old. After saving his earnings for a few days, a teacher asked him what he wants to buy with his savings. A toy car? Some candy?

No, the first thing he chose to buy was a pair of sandals, because he walked around in bare feet when he wasn’t wearing school uniform shoes. The next thing he wanted to buy was a doll for his younger sister, since neither of them had ever owned toys.

Akshar Forum operates in Pamohi, a semi-rural village on the outskirts of the city of Guwahati, Assam in Northeast India.

Though undergoing rapid development over recent years, the region suffers high rates of truancy, dropout, illiteracy, homelessness, unemployment, alcoholism, domestic abuse, and all the other ravages of poverty.

Many boys in this area, as young as 8 years old, are sent to labour in the local stone quarry, breaking rocks all day in the hot sun. Girls are often kept from schooling by their parents, who still think a girl’s place is in the home.

Our efforts are focused on deterring Pamohi boys from being sent to labour and on recruiting as many girls as possible into school (by telling parents that, on average, girls outperform boys in school).