CHENNAI: Article 12 of the United Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that children have the right to participate in decision-making processes that concern them, be it within the family, the school or the community. But this right stands violated in the city, and the country. “Involving children in decision making will give a better perspective, while formulating policies concerning them. Sadly, we don’t have a body that strictly enforces this in our city,” says Sugata Roy from the UNICEF State Office for Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
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Arunodhaya, a centre for street and working children, and the Department of Social Work of the Patrician College of Arts and Science held a consultation on child participation in local governance on the college premises on Tuesday. It was a move to bridge the gap between children and government officials in the city,
At the meeting, activists spoke about enforcing ‘Children Nagara Sabai’, a structure where children associate themselves with local wards and deliberate on issues concerning their development. This method was inspired from Balasabhas under Kudumbashree mission, a structured neighbourhood network of children widely applied in Kerala. “We have in the past given a similar proposal to the State Government, while they have accepted in words, they have not yet enforced it,” said Virgil D’Sami, executive director of Arunodhaya.
The proposed structure by Arunodhaya will have child representation from the ward level, to the zonal and Corporation level, where children would get space to interact in the Corporation council meetings.
“This will also help bring to light any form of exploitation or abuse or other problems that children face in their areas. This will in turn help in culling anti-social activities,” added Virgil.
“There is a similar one at the gram panchayat level, but not in the urban areas. When we try to speak about this to local authorities, they usually evade it saying that a child’s involvement will not be helpful as they will be innocent,” said Andrew Sesuraj, state convener of Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory.
To set an example, Arunodhaya elected three teenage children as zone watchers, who can help solve issues in their areas. “The main issue we have is lack of toilets in schools,” said K Shruthi, a 14-year-old elected to monitor Korukkupet.
“The main sufferers are girls, who during their menstrual cycle have to take leave, as they do not have access to toilets,” she adds.
“A child’s participation helps recognise their potential in decision making, so that they can become agents of change in future. I hope the government sanctions this initiative for good,” added Virgil.