India is home to more than 19% of the world’s children. More than one – third of the country’s population, around 440 million, is below 18 years of age. It is estimated that around 170 million or 40% of India’s children are vulnerable. (Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, Annual Report 2014 – 2015)
India’s children are victimized by ineffective administration and coordination of legislation, policies and practices affecting them, at both federal and state levels, with the national bodies and plans failing to provide the needed authority and coordination. This includes failure to disaggregate data on the groups of children needing special protection, failure to allocate sufficient resources to children, loss of some of these resources through corruption, and failure to implement the complaints mechanism available to children through the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
Children’s rights in India are further threatened by inadequate involvement of civil society in defending their rights, poor monitoring of services to them, and failure to protect them from businesses and corporations exploiting them.
Recognizing this gap, UNICEF’s Strategic Plan and the new Country Programme (2018-2022) aims to address gaps in the enabling environment, including social norms, the quality of and demand for services pertaining to the full development of the child in a life-cycle approach that focuses on the windows of opportunity in early childhood and adolescence. Accordingly, Centre For Social Action (State Level Conveyor) and PRATYeK (National Level Conveyor) have created a partnership along with the technical support of UNICEF Maharashtra, for the ultimate objective of forming of a forum of the Children’s Parliament at District and State Level.
The need for children’s parliaments was realized when the best interests of the child were not being taken into account in all legal situations and children’s participation was and still is blocked in courts, families, schools, local councils and state consultations. Also all the earlier methods and approaches considered to tackle the problem and needs involved only adults advocating for the rights of children. However, children tend to get excluded from conversations that relate to their own issues and therefore the idea of including children in all matters relating to themselves through the medium of children’s parliaments was developed.
A Children’s parliament is essentially formed within a neighbourhood and is comprised of 35 -40 children within the age group of 12 – 17 years. Before being formed into a parliament, the children within this group have to undergo a process of being developed into a strong group, they should learn about their rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and only when they have all these basics they can move towards the step of elections for the parliament. Apart from being elected as the Prime Minister, Parliamentary Affairs Minister and a Speaker, the rest of the members will be elected as Ministers for the SDG’s. Each member within this parliament will have a role as a Minister or Deputy Minister of any of the SDG’s. Once this parliament is formed, the children will be encouraged to identify and take up issues within their communities that affect them. Also, these parliaments will be encouraged to be inclusive; this means that it will include all the vulnerable groups of children including children with disabilities.
The idea is that these parliaments although formed by NGO’s, their role within the parliaments will be restricted to that of a facilitator and eventually the children of the parliament will be motivated to function on their own with limited or no support from the NGO.
Centre For Social Action along with PRATYeK will work with those NGOs who already have an existing children’s parliament or those who wish to form one in Maharashtra.
The Project Objectives and Key Results are mentioned below;
- To map out the existing children’s parliaments within the state of Maharashtra.
- To reach out to different networks within the State of Maharashtra to set up Children’s Parliaments.
- To ensure that children are consistently involved in engaging with different levels of Governance within the State on the issue of child marriage and prevention of violence against children.
- A State Forum of children is formed, which comprises of Child Representatives of Children’s Parliaments of Networks of different divisions of Maharashtra.
- Capacities of young citizens enhanced towards becoming Advocates/Ambassadors of Child Right’s including child marriage and prevention of violence against children.
Centre For Social Action along with PRATYeK will further support the NGOs via
- Training of Trainers
- Mentoring and
- Hand holding throughout the process of forming a children’s parliament