50 Child-Friendly Villages
supported by the NRSC
More than 8,000 children
now in school
2,000 women trained and empowered
47 new water pumps installed
Creation of the Responsible Mica Initiative(RMI),
a multisector mica platform
FINE, YET STURDY
Mica is the term for a group of complex aluminosilicate minerals having a sheet or plate structure with differing compositions and physical properties. It is hard, chemically inert, invulnerable to climatic variations, non-toxic, transparent, and waterproof. By virtue of these incredible qualities, it can be reduced to extremely thin sheets. Mica therefore lends itself to a broad spectrum of commercial applications, including electrical and electronic uses, such as radio, television, telephony, household appliances; petroleum derivatives; pigments incorporated into paint formulas and, to a lesser extent, cosmetics.
INDIA: THE LEADING MICA EXPORTER
India is home to the largest mica deposits in the world. It is the planet’s biggest producer of muscovite mica sheets, the best variety available worldwide. In cosmetics, they are mainly used as filler in powders and sometimes replace talc for lipstick pigments. Mica is ideal for creating shimmering, iridescent effects.
PREVENTING CHILD LABOR IN INDIA
India’s mica industry is facing a major socio-economic challenge. Nearly 70% of the national mica production is illegally collected in the northeast of the country, in the Bihar and Jharkhand districts, remote and markedly poor regions that are hard to reach and without public services. Given the extremely low pay earned by families who collect mica (the soils are very acidic and not suited to agriculture), assigning children to this arduous and dangerous work becomes a necessity, a matter of survival. The lack of inspections, oversight, and traceability of the origins of collected mica results in system abuses, paving the way to unacceptable practices and working conditions. A number of recent NGO studies confirm that more than 20,000 children are still working in mica mines and not attending school.
PATIENTLY SUPPORTING STRUCTURAL CHANGE
Back in 2010, recognizing that systemic change can only be achieved when people themselves become actors in such change, the NRSC decided to tackle this critical issue. It since has supported implementation of the “Child-Friendly Village” model, one that has been put into practice for many years by the NGO BBA (Bachan Bachao Andolan/Save the Children Movement) founded by Kailash Satyarthi, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner who has been fighting for children’s rights since his teens. This model, improved and broadened with time and experience, makes it possible to take children out of the mines, facilitate their schooling, provide them with one meal a day, inform both children and their parents about their most basic rights, and install sanitary facilities, drinking water, and healthcare centers. It also helps uncover skills that villagers may possess which could generate additional income and, most importantly, dignity.
A MODEL THAT WORKS
The impact of the “Child Friendly Village” program, audited by several international law firms in recent years, demonstrates its indisputable effectiveness and sustainability. Nevertheless, having positive impact on this region’s economic and social well-being depends primarily on the commitment of those along the mica supply chain to combat the lack of transparency and apply virtuous practices that respect human resources, the environment, and the country’s rules and laws.
FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE RESPONSIBLE MICA INITIATIVE
To address this critical issue, and encouraged by the measurable, positive results of the “Child Friendly Village” model achieved in the field by the NGO BBA, the NRSC decided to intensify its initiative in 2015 by involving all the actors along the value chain – a complex network due to the material’s many industrial applications – to implement collective solutions.
In January 2017, the Responsible Mica Initiative, a multi-sector platform, was created, bringing together more than 40 entities from the pigment, paint, electronics, and cosmetics industries.
The NRSC, which continues its commitment to this issue, has chosen to further its support of the NGO BBA, now known as the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation (KSCF), to ensure the eradication of child labor in mica mines and improved living conditions in the villages affected by this activity.
The NRSC’s work on the mica industry demonstrates the immense potential for widespread positive impact when an entire value chain is involved and is, in our view, a textbook example of the inspiration our work can bring forth in others involved in a given supply chain.