India’s children as accelerators for India 2047

Published on Nov 16, 2022 11:10 AM IST

The article has been authored by Cynthia McCaffrey, UNICEF Representative in India.

This year’s World Children’s Day on November 20 is an opportunity for us to celebrate and renew our collective promise, across sectors, regions, and organisations, to India’s dynamic generation of children. (AFP)
This year’s World Children’s Day on November 20 is an opportunity for us to celebrate and renew our collective promise, across sectors, regions, and organisations, to India’s dynamic generation of children. (AFP)
ByHindustan Times

Just a few weeks ago, I began my assignment with UNICEF in India not only at the threshold of a long overdue vibrant festive season, but also at the auspicious confluence of key transformations and milestones in India’s global leadership for children. This Diwali has ushered in Amrit Kaal – the journey to 2047 which will see Sarvodaya for all Indians, started the preparations for India’s presidency of the G20 in 2023, both independent India and UNICEF complete 75 years of life, and Mission LiFE was launched as a clarion call to sustainability for the world.

UNICEF India is especially conscious of the game-changing opportunity that India has as home to nearly half-a-billion children, the largest generation of youth in history, and a generation on the cusp of demographic transition that can supercharge growth in the coming years.

And we believe that India’s scalable solutions, its vibrant democracy, its standout innovation economy, and the push for sustainable and inclusive development through some of the world’s biggest development programmes will determine the trajectory of the world’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the run-up to 2030.

This year’s World Children’s Day on November 20 is an opportunity for us to celebrate and renew our collective promise, across sectors, regions, and organisations, to India’s dynamic generation of children. It is our opportunity to recommit to children’s recovery from the global pandemic, which India has accelerated through the world’s largest vaccine drive, and flagship initiatives in nutrition, education, digital transformation, and health care, some of which UNICEF has been privileged to support. It is our opportunity to reflect on the path ahead and advance our concerted efforts and investments in addressing the barriers that remain on the path of child development and protection.

Children and youth represent hope and resilience, not only because they will inherit this planet and this country, but because we are becoming younger as a world every day, and by 2030, this world will be home to 3.5 billion children and youth below the age of 25.

We pause and recommit on November 20 because it marks the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the most ratified international human rights treaty in history to which India was an early signatory in 1992. The Convention reminds us how important it is to uphold and realise the rights of children for a safer, stronger, prosperous society. The day is also a reminder for us to listen to and promote the voices and views of children and ask how we can create more seats for them around tables where policy is being made – at the global, national, state, and local levels – from New Delhi to panchayats in the villages.

UNICEF believes in working not only for children, but also with them to harness their creativity and fresh ideas, to amplify their voices and in addressing the deepening inequalities that affect children’s survival, development, safety, and opportunities.

In the run up to the SDGs in seven years, countries around the world are still struggling to keep children in school, to provide adequate safety, and to reach those who are farthest behind with basic services. Violence remains a harsh reality for millions of children in the world. Child marriage continues to keep girls and boys from reaching their potential. While an increasing number of children have access to technology, there are millions who fall on the wrong side of the digital divide and fall behind in acquiring much needed 21st century skills.

In the Child Rights Week and on the World Children’s Day this year, we look to India in shaping the world’s trajectory out of this child rights crisis. UNICEF urges our partners, champions, families, parents, teachers, and all stakeholders to fully recommit to children not only as rights bearers themselves, but as the bedrock of a stronger Gross Domestic Product and inclusion, as future leaders, and as force multipliers for gender equality, social justice, and LiFE or transformational lifestyles for the environment. UNICEF’s primary partner, the ministry of women and child development is leading actions to improved and equal opportunities for children, especially for girls. All stakeholders need to work together under this ambitious vision and the leadership of the Government of India to demonstrate how the world’s largest democracy is also the largest powerhouse of young people.

UNICEF in India is convening a series of celebrations for World Children’s Day this week. We have invited adolescents to dialogue with Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies on inclusion and equality for girls and boys. Children from different states around India are gathering on November 18 in New Delhi to extend the message of inclusion through art, sports, and music. In a friendly match with eminent celebrities, children will symbolically kick the ball to drive away discrimination and share a compelling message of inclusion in the presence of senior government officials, parents, peers and partners in an event supported by the ministry of youth affairs and Fit India Mission. These girls and boys from different states and districts will share their stories on how sports and sheer determination helped them break barriers of gender stereotypes, child marriage, disability, and exclusion.

UNICEF India is building on the 70 plus years of partnership with the government and people of India to continue accelerating progress in health, quality education, water and sanitation, nutrition, social protection, social communication, and adolescent empowerment. And especially to join children and families this World Children’s Day, to reflect together on our shared responsibility to reimagine a better world for our children. A world that is safer, kinder, one that makes space to include every child and one that is led from the front by India’s children.

Mahatma Gandhi told us that “The earth, the air, the land, and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So, we have to hand over to them at least as it was handed over to us.” This is the promise of India’s efforts for every child and the dream we share for 2047.

The article has been authored by Cynthia McCaffrey, UNICEF Representative in India.

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