‘...in serving the best interests of children, we serve the best interests of all humanity.’
-- Carol Bellamy
Like many other countries, the rights of children are still generally low on the agendas in India. In point of fact, awareness about the rights of the child among children and adults is very limited in India. It is evident from a study Report (Maheshwar Madan All, 1994) that the percentage of children in India who asserted their rights was negligible and a high majority of children were not even aware of their fundamental rights of children due to lack of education. Similarly, amongst adults, 10 percent were aware of the rights of child while 15 percent gave this subject a thought. Only 7 percent were engaged in facilitating these rights to them.
Though the Government of India had ratified the CRC document in 1992 to serve the country's children as the `first call' of the nation, evaluations by various agencies like the UNICEF, Amnesty International, International Commission on Human Rights among others, show that violations of human rights of children are on the rise. While children as individuals enjoy the rights under the UN Convention on the rights of the child, 1989,the conditions of children in India present a grim picture. There are incidents of violations of right to life of a large number of children. Children are also made the subjects of religious discrimination. While adults of different religions wage riots, children are often caught in the crossfire, raped, tortured and murdered because of their religion. The children are still being denied appropriate information in schools. An estimated 60 million children are still out of schools,of which 35 million were girls. The Government fails to acknowledge discrimination as one of the main obstacles to access to education of the Dalit and indigenous children. Children of lower castes are exposed to discrimination at an early stage. Children in armed conflict 14 out of 28 states face serious problems including risks to the security of their lives. There are over 500,000 conflict-induced internally displaced and a large number of them are children. The problem of child labour continues to pose a grave threat to the rights to childhood. And yet, many children,parents,teachers and civic society groups in rural and urban areas are not aware of the rights of the child.
The realisation of children’s rights to be promoted and protected and sensitisation of children in particular and civic action groups in general to the problems of child abuse is still generally low on the agendas in developing India.
The need to respect the rights of child and to promote a public ethos of ‘Children First’ should be an obligation of civic action groups and civic action group cannot shun this social and ethical responsibility. People from all walks of life in India should be made aware of ‘Children’s best interests’. Knowing the urgent need for initiating an action plan for creating awareness and dissemination on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Goodwill social work centre has set up a children’s Rights Centre as a unit with a view a building capacity of Children’s rights among various civic action groups, namely farmers’ associations, Co-operatives, women’s groups, self help groups (men and women), rural youth clubs/Associations, Residents’ welfare associations, grassroots level NGOs, political groups and NSS volunteers and Youth groups in schools) in rural and urban areas in India. The strategic interventions include 1.Chidlren’s Rights Education.2.Children’s Rights Training 3.Children’s Rights Research 4.Children’s Rights Communications 5.Children’s Rights Information Network and 6.Provision of family support services to children at imminent risk, keeping in view the following objectives:
•To provide a conceptual understanding and awareness of the United Nations Convention on the Rights the Child (I989) for civic action groups.
•To arouse social consciousness among civic action groups on their role-responsibilities in child protection initiatives in the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
•To design and develop CRC communication materials in local language and to apply media interventions in education and awareness building programmes.
•To undertake research on child rights issues and concerning the UN Convention on Children’s Rights and develop models for effective implementation on the basis of insights gained by means of research.
•To network with agencies in child rights promotion and protection at the local, national and international levels.
The activities of the CRC include
•Children’s Rights Education and awareness training for civic action groups namely School children’s forums, Teachers’ and parents’ associations, farmers’ associations, Co-operatives, women’s groups, self help groups (men and women), rural youth clubs/Associations, Residents’ welfare associations, grassroots level NGOs, political groups and NSS volunteers and Youth groups in schools
•Children’s rights communications- Designing and developing CRC communication materials and media interventions in education and awareness building programmes.
•Public awareness campaigns (Marches, Street meetings, street plays, human rights chains, rallies, CRC commemoration Day etc.,
•Research on child rights issues and concerning the UN Convention on Children’s Rights.
•Information exchange through electronic and non-electronic networking
•Provision of family support services to endangered children viz., Children on the streets, Child workers, Children who are risk of child abuse, children at risk via the media and children at risk of smoking and drug addiction.
Our organisation has conducted a series of "Children have a right to peace' events for school children in a few schools in and around Madurai, Tamilnadu, South India. As nearly as 300 children participated in Peace education and peace mural arts campaigns. Children made floor arts (Kollam),paintings and drawings on the theme 'Children have a right to peace'. You can view our web album:
Goodwill social work centre