Children’s Day... The memories it holds for me is largely that of it being a school holiday and also of the various fun activities that took place that day! Over the years, the meaning and the memories diminished... I was not a child anymore, so what was the relevance of remembering Children’s Day? Last week, I got my answer!
Last week, I sat amongst a crowd of young people from across the country and various stratas of life. I was part of a panel discussion on NDTV that addressed the issues around children’s rights in India. The discussion was between UNICEF, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Devidas (a young man from rural Maharashtra who has worked on child rights), myself and these kids from across the country.
That’s where I met Meena (name changed). While I was drawn to her zest and enthusiasm for life, I was completely shocked by her story. This young girl from Chandrapur, a district of Maharashtra, had been fighting against being married off at a very early age and has also been relentlessly pursuing ways to educate herself!
One of the main reasons why she had to fight so hard for what we consider our basic rights is because she was a girl! One by one, as I heard the stories of these kids, both boys and girls, I was awakened to the fact that even today, children across or country are fighting for their most basic rights.
While it was shocking to hear the stories, I was also very encouraged by their attitude and their spirit to give themselves a chance of making a place for themselves in the world and also by the efforts being made by UNICEF and the Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
Working hand in hand with the government, they create laws that protect the rights of children across the country! One such victory is the ‘Right to Free and Compulsory Education’ Bill which has been recently enacted and describes the modalities of the provision of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India.
Over the past few years, I have been actively involved in raising awareness towards causes that support the upliftment of underprivileged children and especially the girl child.
I am currently associated with UNICEF (who have been mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights) and Save the Children (a leading independent child rights organisation creating lasting change for children in need).
The more I got involved, the more I understood just how much work still needed to be done. I share this with you because I think now, more than ever, it is important that as a society, all of us collectively must respect and promote the rights of children everywhere and especially that of the girl child, giving them a chance to live a life free of discrimination.
I am where I am today because of the opportunities given to me by my parents. Let’s reach out, in our own individual capacity, to help make a difference in the lives of the lesser privileged children across the country.