In a unique project, over I,600 kids in Uttarakhand were taught media skills. 130 of them used their newly acquired skills to write an alternative report on child rights in the state, which will be submitted to the UN.
What would an 11-year-old do if his best friend were beaten by his alcoholic father? If he's Lakshman Negi, he would make a comic strip of the incident and paste copies of it all over his village. The incident, which happened three years ago, proved a strong enough message to make the friend's father give up drinking and also showed the power of highlighting children's issues in their own words.
Lakshman's creative outburst finds root in a first-of-its-kind programme in Uttarakhand, where 1,625 children below 18 years of age from across the state are being trained in media skills to put across their views on issues concerning them. And at a time when the Indian government is preparing its periodic report to submit to the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) later this year, 130 of these child journalists have prepared an alternative report on child rights in Uttarakhand.
Titled 'As We See It', the report highlights issues like birth regis- tration, primary education and discrimination against children. It would be presented to the UN body in Geneva. The reports found there are long delays in registering births and discrimination against children in all forms - caste, gender, age and economic status. The initiative is the outcome of a project called Unique Media Approach for New Generation (Umang), started three years ago by Plan India and Sri Bhuvaneshwari Mahila Ashram (SBMA).
"We formed child groups called Bal Panchayats in 1996. But the children's views were not taken seriously as they lacked facts and figures. This led to Umang's creation," said Gajendra Nautiyal, one of the programme's founders. To prepare the report, the child journalists worked for nearly six months, collecting evidence, talking to people while juggling studies, household chores and taking care of siblings.