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 from various strata 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 (NCPCR), Devidas (a young man from rural Maharashtra who has worked for child rights), me 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 in Maharashtra, fought against being married off at a very early age and has also been relentlessly working educate herself!
One of the main reasons why she had to fight so hard for what we consider our basic right is because she was a girl! One by one, as I heard the stories of these boys and girls, I realised that even today, children across or country are fighting for their most basic rights. While it was shocking to hear the stories, I was very encouraged by the spirit of these kids to make a place for themselves in the world. Also impressive are the efforts by the UNICEF and the NCPCR, along with the government to 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, especially the girl child. I am currently associated with UNICEF and Save the Children (a leading independent child rights organisation). And the more I get involved, the more I understand just how much work still needs 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 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 to the lives of the lesser privileged children across the country.
PS: Catch India’s Children: The Right Issue on November 14, 7.30 pm and Hume Haq Chahiye the same day at 10.30 pm on NDTV India