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IKEA Investing in the Lives of 100 Million Children and Women
" IKEA Chief Executive Officer Mikael Ohlsson (white shirt) and UNICEF Representative in India Karin Hulshof (right) sit with village child protection committee members in Dungarpur district, Rajasthan, "

UTTAR PRADESH , India, 22 September 2010 – Saroja Prajupati plans to become Minister of Education when she grows up.

“I want all children to go to school,” she explains.

She’s already on track to meet her career goal serving as ‘Education Minister’ in the Child Cabinet at her primary school in Sonbhadra district in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. Seven girls, including the school’s ‘Prime Minister’ and five boys, make up the child cabinet.

Expanding quality education

Saroja says that some children in her community don’t go to school because their parents want them to stay home and work. But she believes that education makes all the difference in a child’s life. “When you grow up, you can make something of yourself,” she said.

The Child Cabinet is part of the activity-based learning and quality education package being promoted by UNICEF in 11 districts of Uttar Pradesh.

“Child-friendly schools make learning more attractive to children so they stay in school for a longer period of time to complete their basic education,” said Chief of UNICEF’s Uttar Pradesh field office Adele Khudr.

The IKEA Social Initiative – the corporate philanthropy arm of the international home-furnishings retailer – is providing funds so that activity-based learning and quality education can be expanded to all elementary schools in Mirzapur, Jaunpur and Sonbhadra districts in the eastern part of the state.

IKEA tackles child labour

IKEA CEO Mikael Ohlsson is on a two-week visit to India to see IKEA-supported projects in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra to see how his company’s $167 million investment is making a difference for India’s children.

In the 1990s, media reports surfaced that several multi-national corporations were sourcing their products through companies in the developing world that used child labourers. In response, IKEA approached Save the Children and UNICEF to develop a code of conduct and began working with UNICEF to tackle the issue of child labour in the carpet belt of Uttar Pradesh in 2000.

“What once started as IKEA’s fight against child labour in Uttar Pradesh has now grown into a commitment to improve the lives of 100 million children and women, primarily in India,” said Marianne Barner, head of the IKEA Social Initiative.

During his visit to Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Ohlsson met with the Child Cabinet and saw classrooms in Butt and Bahura towns magically transformed with grids of string festooned with stars made of coloured paper cut-outs. Flashcards with letters in English and Hindi and math tables hung from the grid so that children could more easily see them closer to their eye-level.

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