7 Oct 2011

Empowering Children: Children's Parliament at Rourkela

By - Sudeesh PM*

Members of Children’s Parliament may be young, but they serve as the first line to present on children's issues and can influence the adults. Children's Parliament on Child Rights saw one of the biggest gatherings ever in the district. Organised by CHILDLINE Rourkela, three hundred students participated in the event.

The issues presented by children ranged from poor education, health facilities, education, health facilities and civic amenities, gender and caste discrimination. A 15-year-old girl who is a member in Children’s Parliament, told, the questions from children are always spontaneous and honest. Children’s Parliament discusses children issues in the presence of officials from government and other organisations.

Conducting their session just as the grown-up members of Parliament do, the child parliamentarians allowed members to present their concerns to their adult counterparts and the general public. In the meetings, children discuss serious issues like child education, child trafficking, domestic violence, hunger, child labour, Nutritional food and more.

Children's Parliament raises a strong voice on major issues

Children Parliament passed the following resolutions:

Universalization with quality: The universalization of ICDS is urgently required to protect the rights of children under six. 

Equity: In the process of universalizing ICDS, priority should be given to marginalized communities.  In particular, SC/ST hamlets should get priority in the creation of new Anganwadi Centers (AWCs).

Supplementary nutrition: For children in the age group of 3-6 years, supplementary nutrition should be provided in the form of a cooked, nutritious meal at the AWCs, using locally procured food. For children below the age of three, nutritious take-home rations (THR) based on locally procured food may be provided. 

Day care: Wherever required, day care services should be provided.  The requisite resources, infrastructure, staff, space, training etc., should be available for this purpose. 

Differently-able children: Special provisions should be made for differently-able children.  Also, surveys of children under six conducted by AWWs should include a survey of children with special needs.

Excluded children: Special provisions should also be made for other marginalized groups of children, such as street children and children of migrant families.

Emergencies: ICDS also needs to respond to disaster situations (floods, earthquakes, conflict, etc.) by opening emergency centers in the area as soon as possible.

No privatization or External Funding: There should be no privatization of any ICDS services.  Moves towards privatization, such as the introduction of user fees in ICDS, or privatization in the name of community participation, should be resisted.

Right to information: All ICDS-related information should be in the public domain.  The provisions of the Right to Information Act, including pro-active disclosure of essential information, should be implemented in letter and spirit in the context of ICDS. 

Supreme Court orders: Supreme Court orders on ICDS in the “right to food case” (PUCL vs Union of India and Others, Civil Writ Petition 196 of 2001) should be immediately implemented in letter and spirit, especially orders relating to universalization with priority to SC/ST hamlets and urban slums.

Right to food: Mid-day meals are not just an incentive for the universalization of education but an entitlement for children’s right to food. Budget allocations for mid-day meals should be raised. Proper infrastructure for mid-day meals should be mandatory, including cooking sheds, storage space, drinking water, ventilation, utensils, etc.

Social discrimination: Serious action should be taken in the event of any form of social discrimination in mid-day meals, such as discrimination against Dalit children or Dalit cooks.

The children themselves echoed this in a resolution they drafted on June 3-5, 2011 states: the root cause of all the problems the children are facing is hunger. It is the poor economic condition and non availability of food that has forced the children to become the child labour.The resolutions passed during the convention on the issues of poor education, health facilities, food, gender and caste discrimination will be sent to different officials for appropriate action.

“The children spoke and adults listened. There was proper documentation of the whole proceedings and issues referred to special committees for consideration. If only we elders lend the children our ears and let them speak out fearlessly and freely this world will be a much safer and peaceful place to live in.” said A K Azad, Director, CHILDLINE Rourkela

The programme gave a platform for children to share their problems, feelings and thoughts and to create the children aware of the powers of a parliamentary democracy. They would know how to be a responsible citizen and the importance of involving themselves in community affairs. It was a big children's get to gather ever in the district.

The District Collector and other resource organisation of the district appreciated the programme. More than 300 children parliament members from Panposh sub-division participated in a Children’s Parliament organised by CHILDLINE Rourkela at Gurudwara Hall from June 3-5, 2011.

Children’s Parliament had a clear message: Every child has a right to live without experiencing prejudice, exclusion, and discrimination. The Children’s parliament has provided the children with an excellent platform to raise their voices, and project their concerns. After all who can understand the problems faced by the children better than themselves?, who can advocate their problems better than themselves? !! Their Own chosen representatives. "

*-Sudeesh PM is currently working as Program Assistant with CHILDLINE India Foundation.