‘We don’t vote, but hear our voices’, Assam children tell parties ahead of polls
As a resident of Majuli, the world’s largest river island, 16-year-old Kuldeep Narayan Bora has seen the devastation erosion can wreck on people living there. Now the teenager wants those in power to know about the issue and find a permanent solution.
“I have seen my friends lose their homes to erosion. They were forced to live in tents for months along with their cattle. I want the government to give proper compensation to those affected,” said the Class 10 student who wants to become an audio engineer.
Kuldeep is not alone. Ten other children like him from all over Assam are at present gathered in Guwahati to draft a manifesto, which will include problems faced by children and suggest recommendations.
The children will meet Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on November 20 on the occasion of World Children’s Day and hand over their manifesto to him. They will also meet leaders of political parties so that their recommendations are included in manifestoes of parties for the assembly polls due in March-April next year.
The effort is part of a campaign called NINEISMINE by PRATYeK, a Delhi-based organization, which recognizes children as primary stakeholders of society and help them know their rights so that they can engage with policy makers to ensure inclusion and implementation of issues concerning children.
Rahul Barman, 17, from Tamulmur in Baksa district wants clean classrooms, toilets and drinking water in all schools. Rimjhim Saikia, 13, who is differently abled, wants special schools and special buses for those like her.
“My parents work in a tea garden. But their wages are very low and it’s not enough to provide for the entire family. I want the government to set up a factory near my place where my parents can work and earn a decent amount,” said Aditya Kanu, 15, from Derby tea estate in Cachar district.
Tulsimoni Ramchiary, 14, lost her mother few days after her birth and her father left her soon after. She wants government to ensure every girl gets equal opportunities in every field.
“We are not old enough to vote now, but we will be able to do so in few years. Our problems don’t get highlighted or get sidelined. Through this manifesto, we want to bring them to the notice of those who matter and make them accountable,” said Rahul.
Over 4,000 children from across Assam participated in the effort supported by UNICEF. Besides preparing the manifesto, the children, some of whom have come to Guwahati for the first time, are also learning skills like public speaking, audio and video recording etc. during their stay.
“This is an initiative where young people advocate for changes based on their ambitions, ideas and dreams centered around their own experiences and situations,” said Steve Rocha, director, PRATYeK.
“Our aim is also to keep government accountable to their promises and try and influence policies. Since Assam is heading for elections, we decided to let the children prepare a manifesto and hand it over to political parties before they (the parties) frame their own manifestoes,” he added.