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Monday, 26 February, 2001, 01:48 GMT
'They made me work day and night'
12-year-old Pachi
Pachi says she was beaten and abused
One in four children around the world lives in poverty, working from an early age to earn enough money to feed and clothe themselves.

As the UK Government hosts a major conference in London on child poverty, one child tells of her difficult life.

Pachi, aged 12, comes from a village in India's West Bengal state.

She has already seen much cruelty and poverty in her short life.

Last year, aged just 11, she was sent away from her family to live in nearby Calcutta where she worked as a domestic maid.

Now she is back home working as a sari embroiderer, but Pachi says life for many children in India is still a daily battle against grinding poverty.

Children like her miss out on education as well as a carefree childhood.


They shut me up in the house and never let me out. They didn't give me enough food, and they made me work day and night

Pachi

She said: "Girls my age don't get to study because we are from poor families, so we have to work to earn our living. Most of the girls in this village go off to Calcutta to work in the houses of big families.

"One of the women in the village asked me if I wanted to go. I said yes, because my parents are poor and there isn't much food at home, so I had to go there and work.

"I thought that I'd at least eat there and get clothes to wear."

'Boys slapped me'

But Pachi soon found this was not the case and she was badly abused by the family.

She said: "They shut me up in the house and never let me out. They didn't give me enough food and they made me work day and night.

"The boys in the house were very bad because they used to pull my hair and slap me.

"I couldn't go to sleep most of the time because if I slept they either poured water on me or dragged me up from my sleep to work," she said.

Sent back

So Pachi went home to her parents, but they were keen to send her back to keep earning money.

"As soon as I came back my parents started scolding me. They wanted me to return. But I kept on saying that I wouldn't go back to that place," she said.

Thanks to a scheme by Save the Children, Pachi and children like her can now stay in their own village.

Save the Children is working with a partner organisation called Nishta to provide vocational training and education in villages in rural West Bengal.

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