Shantha Sinha, an Indian anti-child labour activist, has dedicated her life to advocating for the rights and welfare of children. Her profound impact on the lives of countless young ones in India has earned her recognition and accolades, including the prestigious Padma Shri award.
Shantha Sinha was born on January 7, 1950, in the Nellore district of coastal Andhra Pradesh. Her early education took place at St. Ann's High School in Secunderabad, providing her with a strong foundation for her future endeavours. She pursued higher education, earning a master's degree in political science from Osmania University in 1972. Her thirst for knowledge and commitment to social change led her to complete her doctorate at Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1976. With her academic achievements in hand, she joined the faculty of the University of Hyderabad, where she would later become a force for change.
Shantha Sinha's work in the field of child rights and anti-child labour activism has been nothing short of remarkable. She established the Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiya Foundation, affectionately known as MV Foundation, in memory of her grandfather, Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiah. This foundation has become a prominent player in the battle against child labour in India, working tirelessly to rescue and rehabilitate child labourers and provide them with education and a brighter future.
Her efforts extend beyond her role in MV Foundation. She has been a professor in the Department of Political Science at Hyderabad Central University, where her academic background and passion for social change intersected. Her academic insights have added depth to her activism, contributing to her comprehensive understanding of the issues surrounding child labour.
In recognition of her tireless work, Shantha Sinha was honoured with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 2003. This award celebrated her role in guiding the people of Andhra Pradesh to eradicate child labour and ensure that all children have access to education. Her remarkable contributions did not go unnoticed, as she was also awarded the Padma Shri, a civilian honour bestowed by the Government of India in 1998.
The Albert Shanker International Award (1999) from Education International and the Hyderabad Women of the Decade Achievers Award for Social Service by ASSOCHAM Ladies League further underscore her exceptional dedication to improving the lives of India's children.
Shantha Sinha's work as an activist has brought about a significant reduction in child labour in nearly 1,200 villages of Ranga Reddy district in Telangana. Her impact is nothing short of extraordinary, with generations of children benefiting from her commitment to their welfare. It is no wonder that the Government of India recognised her contribution by appointing her as the first chairperson of the newly formed National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
As the chairperson of NCPCR, Shantha Sinha advocated for the amendment of the Child Labor Act and sought to include adolescent labourers within its purview. Her tireless efforts to protect the rights of children were evident as she worked alongside other child rights champions, such as Yogesh Dube, a Member of NCPCR, and Neela Gangadharan, Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare. Together, they addressed the pressing issue of child labour on the occasion of Anti-Child Labor Day, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to the cause.
Shantha Sinha's journey from an academic to a leading child rights activist and her pivotal role in the fight against child labour in India showcase her indomitable spirit and enduring commitment to creating a better future for the nation's children. Her legacy will continue to inspire future generations to stand up for the rights and welfare of the most vulnerable among us.