One-third of India’s population comprise of children. Lakhs of them suffer some form of abuse, be it physical or emotional. Social entrepreneur Jeroo Billimoria has rendered yeoman service in reaching out to these vulnerable children, empowering them to lead better lives.
Mumbai born Billimoria did her Masters in Social Work at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), where she worked later in the 1990s as a professor. She launched MelJol in 1991, an organisation that educates underprivileged children about their rights and provides them with opportunities to realise their potential.
In her course of work, she interacted with the children staying in Mumbai’s night shelters and railway stations. Moved by their plight, she gave them her personal telephone number so that they could contact her in an emergency. Soon, she began receiving calls daily, especially at night when other voluntary services had shut for the day.
Billimoria realized the urgent need for a helpline that could help a child in trouble avail of a service at any place and any time. Thus Childline was born. 1098 became India’s first 24-hour emergency telephone service for homeless street children in distress. She took the idea to a global level and founded Child Helpline International which operates in 153 countries.
The next item on the agenda was to help these children learn how to save and invest money wisely. She founded a social and financial educational programme called Aflatoun which has reached out to millions of children worldwide through partner agencies.
In 2011, Billimoria founded Child and Youth Finance International to urge governmental and financial institutions to introduce child-friendly schemes that can economically empower children and youth, like letting them open bank accounts with minimal deposit.
With her wealth of experience, Billimoria is a highly respected speaker and has earned several awards and fellowships. She lives in Amsterdam.