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Prince Charles unveils children’s protection fund for India

LONDON: Britain’s Prince Charles has unveiled a new children’s protection fund for India as part of British Asian Trust, the charity founded by him in 2007 to fight poverty in South Asia.

At the trust’s annual charity dinner in London on Tuesday night, the heir to the British throne announced popular American singer Katy Perry as the ambassador of the new fund, which will be focussed on reducing the exploitation of children by 50 per cent in India over 10 years.

Indian philanthropist Natasha Poonawalla has made a multimillion-pound pledge in support of the fund, which she will chair, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIIF) is set to match fund everything raised upto GBP 25 million to develop the largest anti-trafficking fund in South Asia.

“The commitment of the Poonawallas to the Trust, since I first met them seven years ago, has made such an immense difference and I am so very grateful to them for all their efforts,” said the Prince of Wales.

“Over the next 10 years, with their support, and in partnership with Sir Chris Hohn (billionaire hedge fund manager) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, we plan to develop the largest ever anti-trafficking fund in South Asia in order to make a substantial reduction in child trafficking and abuse across India,” he said.

The main areas of focus for the British Asian Trust’s Children’s Protection Fund will cover child sexual abuse, child labour and trafficking, and its aim would be to develop school safety nets through child-friendly village models.

There are believed to be 5.8 million children working in forced labour in India with tens of thousands thought to be working in hazardous workshops in Jaipur alone, producing goods including bangles, embroidery and other products, with many forced to work for upto 15 hours a day.

The British Asian Trust said it has been working with business, government and civil society, to remove child labour from supply chains and encourage child labour free products in markets as part of the Child Labour Free Jaipur Initiative.

As a result of a partnership with the Freedom Fund and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the first conviction resulting in a life sentence for a child trafficker in Jaipur was achieved in 2019.

Two further life sentences for child labour offenders have followed.

Through the Trust’s work in anti-trafficking, improving livelihoods, education and mental health, it claims to have touched the lives of 4.8 million people in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and has recently expanded its remit into Bangladesh.

Prince Charles also spoke of the Trust’s plans to launch “new and exciting” impact bonds in some of these countries.

“During my recent visit to India in November, I had the great good fortune to meet some of the children who have benefitted from the USD 11-million Quality India Education Development Impact Bond,” he said, in reference to his visit to Mumbai in November last year, where he also met Katy Perry.

“India has long held a special place in my heart, and on my last visit, I was able to meet with The Prince of Wales and other leaders in Mumbai, and I was impressed by their strong plan — from on-ground initiatives to fundraising – that will aim to cut child trafficking in half,” said Perry, the singer-songwriter behind hits like ‘Firework’.

“That is why I am especially honoured to be named an ambassador for the British Asian Trust’s Children’s Protection Fund, and to help shine my light on the work that the British Asian Trust will be doing in South Asia, and to be a part of finding solutions to child trafficking.

Children are vulnerable and innocent and have to be protected,” she said.

The British Asian Trust, chaired by Indian-origin businessman Manoj Badale, was founded 13 years ago by Prince Charles and a group of British Asian business leaders with a vision to transform lives across South Asia.