Malleshwari – 29 years, is a senior cameraperson with TV9 – a leading television news channel network based in Hyderabad, India.
Her journey from a cattle herd in a remote village at Chinna Thellada in Medak district to a much decorated camera person is inspiring.
She was the third of 6 children – 5 girls and a boy. Her parents were poor; her father was an alcoholic and got violent with children and her mother. Her mother, worked as a daily wage farm labourer and was the sole bread winner for the family. By the time Malleshwari was 5 year old she started to graze the family goats accompanying them on pasture lands through rubble and shrubs. When she was 9 years old her mother passed away and she was under the care of her grandmother. Even there she continued to take the cattle out for grazing. She very much wished that she went to school when she saw children of her age going to school.
During the campaign against child labour MVF volunteers contacted her uncle and grandmother several times and could persuade them to at least send her to a motivation camp. This was a small but a great step, that gave confidence to her grandmother as well as Malleshwari who was withdrawn as a cattle herd and enrolled in the Residential Bridge Course Camp (RBC) in Alur during 1999.
Malleshwari blossomed in the camp, showed her talent as a singer, actor and a determined student. Her path to complete secondary school education and graduate in college was not easy, but she persevered. She led the group ‘Vimukti’ (Liberation) with 10 alumni of the RBC – a forum of ex-child labourers who went on weekends around the slums of Hyderabad to identify child labourers and motivate them through street theatre and campaign songs and to reach out to these children and their parents.
Malleshwari had developed a passion for photography very early on. The RBC had numerous visitors and every one of them would click dozens of pictures. She would long for the day when she could handle a camera on her own. She realised this dream in 2009, when she joined news television channel HMTV as trainee cameraperson.
During the course of her 5-year stint with the channel, she covered a number of children’s issues. She used the camera to free child labour, telecasting pictures of them in hotels, brick kilns on the TV and pressing the labour department to take action. Thus nearly 70 such children were liberated and repatriated. She also undertook the audio mixing of a documentary show on child marriage based on MV Foundation’s popular skit on child marriage.
Malleshwari tries to use every opportunity to highlight the issue of child labour and right to education and believes that media must be more serious about the issue of child labour and give visibility to it.