By Tanmoy Bhaduri:
A third of India’s population are children. And yet their issues remain largely invisible, de-prioritized and mostly neglected. Despite a plethora of positive and progressive laws, policies and programmes, the situation remains the same, with unmet targets and worsening trends seen in nearly all child rights indicators over the past decade and more.
On the occasion of Universal Children’s Day, I spoke to a few children in the intervention areas of CRY – Child Rights and You and they told me what they want.
“I want to feel safe in my country,” says little Rashi. She is from the Birhor colony, a tribal settlement at the remote block of Satgawan in Jharkhand. “I keep hearing about children who get trafficked, and how I need to stay away from strangers because of terrible crimes like neglect, abuse, violence and exploitation against children like us.”
“I want to stand on my feet before I marry,” says 8-year-old Nisha. In the village of Mirganj in Jharkhand where she has grown up, it is a common sight for children to get married and become mothers before they reach adulthood.
“I want to enjoy my childhood,” says Nitin. He stays in the village adjacent to Nisha and is currently studying in Class 6. “So many of my friends are working!” he says.
“I don’t want to sleep on an empty stomach,” says Bindu. “I hate it.”
“I want a healthy life,” Rani (10) smiles broadly. “It used to be so difficult to go to school when I used to keep unwell all the time.” In her village, in the Satgawan district of Jharkhand, 100% immunisation started happening only three years back.
“I need a doctor. Someone who will take care of me and my friends. I will grow up and become one, but till that time, we need someone else, right?” Vijay stays in a hamlet called Mananpur, in Jharkhand.
“Make our existence count. We should have our birth registration certificates,” say sisters Saika and Saleha. They are currently studying in Class 11 and they use their talent of singing to spread awareness on child rights issues.
“I am a girl, give me my right to live. I know now that there are much lesser girls in India than boys. Where do all the girls go?” Manisha Kumari, all of 15, wants to become a District Magistrate when she grows up. “I will lead the change for sure!” says a determined Manisha.
“We want to complete schooling,” says the members of the Children’s Group created by Rashtriya Jharkhand Seva Santhan, a project supported by CRY. “Not every child gets the opportunity to do that. We ensure that at least our friends do not drop out. We track them and also speak to parents if required.”
“Invest in us. We are the present and the future,” says 10-year-old Ganesh. “Give us schools we deserve. Make us your priority.” He is currently studying in Class 5 in the village of Khalispur in the district of Samastipur, Bihar.
When it comes to reaching out to children and including them in the overall growth of the nation, there seems to be a significant gap between the intent and implementation. What’s more, it still remains a long journey to ensure quality service delivery mechanisms in place for implementing programmes and policies.
Komal Ganotra, Director, Policy, Research and Advocacy, CRY, says, “This is an appeal to all the service providers and the duty bearers – be it the governments, authorities, corporations and people at large, to come together to uphold the rights of our children, in their own capacity, at every possible level. Investing in children today means that a country such as India has a chance to break the inter-generational cycle of poverty, inadequacy, malnutrition, abuse and violence.”