Grama Sabhas on Children’s Issues: Children’s voices are now heard at Grama Panchayat level also. The circular issued by RDPR, GoK to conduct regular Grama Sabhas on children’s issues is bearing fruits. Various NGOs and several Grama Panchayats have taken the idea in a progressive manner and are conducting Grama Sabhas effectively. CRT developed this model with the support of CRY and EveryChild during 2003 to 2006 and is continuing to work in some select districts with a separate dedicated team. CRT has also developed communication and reference material for this activity. Karnataka Child Rights Observatory is playing a meaningful role not only to take information from the Grama Sabhas but also as a source of direction through its research and analysis.

With the help of the RDPR circular, it is now feasible to spread the idea throughout the state. KCRO is attempting this through various local NGOs. Similar initiatives will be taken up in urban areas. The project involves workshops, training, supportive materials and sharing of information.

Child Rights Special Grama Sabha-an idea by CRT -KCRO and the initiative taken by the RDPR:

Since 2003 CRT started working with 15 Grama panchayats in Bellary district. Initial steps were very tough, as there was no acceptance by the local governance when CRT spoke to them about their responsibilities towards children. Large sections of the gram panchayats were not aware of children’s issues. CRT then took an alternative way, by collecting secondary data from ANMs (Health workers), AWW (Anganawadi or pre primary centres), schools and such other sources and analysed the situation of children in each of the village of the 15 panchayats. A report of the analysis under the title, Our Children Our future was presented in public gatherings to discuss about children of that particularly pantheist or village.

This resulted in creating a forum for discussing children’s issues. This was augmented with children’s clubs in schools and debate competition on children’s issues in schools. For these programmes representative of panchayats were invited to respond to children. In the subsequent year, an analysed data of the 15 panchayats which showed clearly the problems related to education, pre primary education, health, protection was presented to the Secretary, RDPR – Department of Panchayat Raj Institutions, Government of Karnataka in a special meeting in the month of August 2006. In the same meeting we urged and advocated for a special village meeting or Grama Sabha to discuss about children’s issues on a non party basis. The concerned government officials used their discretion and after reviewing the processes accepted to the idea and a circular was sent to all the Gram panchayats to conduct one day Child Rights Special Grama Sabha. As our instructions, each grama sabha is to be preceded by accurate data collection, analysis of the same and presented before the village meeting and decisions to be taken.

CRT later took the responsibility of providing a module for conducting such grama sabha and the data to be collected for analysis and presentation at the meetings. Although not all GPs in the state have followed the format, most of the NGO linked GPs have followed the methodology. The best off the Child Rights Special Grama Sabha is yet to be experienced.

Child Friendly Panchayat:

All efforts would be put to facilitate GPs to get transformed into Child Friendly Gram Panchayats. The following would be the starting point for considering Gram Panchayats as Child Friendly Gram Panchayats.

  • Gram Panchayats conducting Child Rights Special Grama Sabhas with active participation of children and adult alike and given considerable opportunities for children to express their opinion, questions and problems.
  • Children from Child Rights Clubs and others would actively participate in child rights special gram sabha meetings and their participation is taken into consideration by the concerned community and government.
  • In this meeting problems relating child labour, child marriage, and girl child discrimination will be discussed. And major decisions will be taken to combat the problems within their villages with the help of police and related departments.
  • Making provision for cultural and sports activities for children, library facilities, hostel facilities, special care for physically and mentally handicapped/challenged children.
  • Making provisions for Child related projects, facilities, programs
  • Anganawadi teachers, ANMs, Police and education dept. representatives will attend the gram sabha and compare the children’s development data to attend special meetings to share about the status of all children in their working areas and take feed back from the participants of the meeting.
  • Panchayats to note of marriages, pregnancies, health check up, safe delivery, safe child hood, health facilities, pre primary and primary education facilities, etc.

KCRO-Karnataka Child Rights Observatory:

KCRO-Karnataka Child Rights Observatory is a unique network which while catering the needs of the member organisations, also encourages them to join in advocacy both at local and state level. The KCRO front is at present supported by UNICEF, but the activities undertaken by CRT with the support of EveryChild is complementing each other. In the last four years EveryChild supported CRT to concentrate on Grama Panchayats to become sensitive to child rights issues.

The ultimate goal of Governments taking the responsibility of conducting regular audit of situation of children at panchayat level is now realized, by Government officially instructing all the Grama Panchayats to conduct regular ‘Grama Sabhas’ on child rights issues.

As we all know this won’t happen automatically! You need to do a lot of handholding exercises, capacity building, material generation, record success stories and best practices and circulate among practitioners. Later continuously invent new areas and methods to sustain the efforts. This is a continuous process.

In the coming years we the members of KCRO network are looking at this process to be owned by several groups, support agencies and Government. This will create an opportunity for all the stake holders to bring in specific child rights issues to this significant forum.

In this context we concentrating the following works :

  • Concentrate on situation of CRSGS. (studies, advocacy, capacity building of the concerned and examination of Govt. policy, programmes and projects)
  • Use all possible forums (strengthening Child Rights Special Grama Sabhas to question hour in Vidhana Soudha)
  • Support children’s parliaments in various districts culminating in the children’s meet at Vidhana Soudha with CM to raise child rights issues.
  • Promoting to procuring materials (Manuel, Books, successful case studies, News letters etc).
  • Election campaign at village level, TP and ZP level.