Parul Sheth believes strongly in the power of education to strengthen societies, especially in disadvantaged communities. In 1994, Parul and her husband founded Shaishav in Bhavnagar city and district located in Saurashtra, India. At the time of Shaishav’s creation, there were no organizations working for underprivileged children in Saurashtra, although studies conducted by Shaishav and the Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centre (SPARC) showed that there were more than 8,000 child workers in Bhavnagar. While various forms of child labor is illegal in India according to The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act (1986) and certain provisions in the Indian Constitution , it remains a persistent problem that is difficult to quantify. The United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child and other international treaties have been instrumental for providing an international framework for child rights advocates such as Shaishav.
Meaning “Childhood,” Shaishav trains local teachers and offers innovative support for schools and the local community. This model effectively engages all aspects of the community in advocating against child labor, creating a sustainable program that continues to function even after Shaishav has withdrawn its support. Shaishav combines grassroots organizing with international standards of human rights to create programs that directly engage children and discourage them from working. Examples of their programs include: the Quality Education Program, Play for Peace, Children’s Rights Training Center, and Circle Point.
In 2011, Parul was awarded a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship to study at the University of Minnesota Law School. As a fellow, Parul has continued her dedication to children’s rights, researching the prevalence and effects of youth participation with advocacy organizations across the United States. Aided by Professor Michael Baizerman, Professor Ross VeLure Roholt, and University of Minnesota undergraduate student Kayleen Jacobson, Parul explored ways in which organizations involve youth in documenting, researching, evaluating or assessing programs or services. To compile this data, Parul visited nine organizations in seven different cities.
Parul is currently in the editing phase of her research and more information regarding her report will be forthcoming.