CHILDRENS POLL ANALYSIS

“Children are not only our future, they are our present and we need to start taking their voices very seriously. We must listen carefully to what young people have to say and give them every opportunity to speak. We must reach out to them and encourage them to participate in the decision-making processes that affect their lives. ”
— Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF

The issue of children covers a lot of ground from right to live to right to participation. Does the adult world really know what children think? Do the decision-makers and policy makers have any idea of children’s hopes, ambitions or concerns? If so, would they use this knowledge to tailor services at home, school and in the community to better reflect children’s real needs and desires?

The UNCRC adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 which India ratified in 1992 that children have all the right to express their opinion freely. Further the Convention that adults must take the views of children and adolescents into account when making decisions which affect them. Only if adults take their responsibility seriously – as individuals, parents, governments, civil society groups, the private sector and international agencies, will the vision of UNCRC come true.

To find out children’s views and insights on a wide range of important topics and to use the result to guide advocacy and programes related to children in the coming years, CRT, with the help of CACL-K, has attempted a children’s opinion poll on their rights in various districts of Karnataka.

Objectives of the Children’s Poll:

  • To promote the participation of children by providing an opportunity to share their opinions and views.
  • To identify the problems and issues that children see as priorities and to identify the priority areas for necessary action.
  • To help governments, NGOs, community, teachers and media to gain a better understanding of children’s perceptions regarding their rights and identify key areas in need of improvement and change.
    To identify areas for in-depth study.
  • To disseminate the information for effective democracy and good governance.

In this background, nearly 10,000 poll formats were distributed throughout the state. The format consists of 18 issues related to children and asks the children to prioritize each of the 18 issues. The poll format is given below:

Sl.No. Issues Very Important Fairly Important Not Important
1 Not to be discriminated against for any reason
2 Life, meaning my survival and development
3 A name and nationality [an identity] should be protected
4 The love and care of my parents or, in case this is not possible, by a suitable alternative family
5 Freedom of opinion and expression, and to information and meeting with others.
6 Freedom of religion and culture
7 No interference to my privacy, home and reputation
8 In case of disability of any kind, be able to have a full and decent life, as self-reliant as possible
9 A standard of living that is needed for my full development and to social security
10 Enjoy the highest standard of health, with facility to the treatment of illness.
11 Free elementary education and access to higher levels, that helps to develop all my abilities and that is imparted without corporal punishment or degrading me in any way.
12 Rest and leisure, play and recreation, and participation in cultural activities, according to my age.
13 Protection from any form of exploitation – economic, sexual or use for any illegal purpose
14 Protection from illegal use of narcotic drugs and from being used in its production or trade
15 Protection from abduction, and being sold or trafficked for any purpose or in any form
16 Protection from illegal treatment and detention in case of any conflict with the law.
17 Protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, abuse, torture, etc
18 In case of armed conflict, protection; and assistance also if a refugee.

Till September 2008 we have received nearly 3,000 opinion responses from 10 districts of the state. The number of responses from district to district varies. The district-wise responses received are given below.

District No. of Polls Received
Mangalore 122
Bangalore (Rural) 144
Shimoga 750
Raichur 196
Hubli (Rural) 160
Gulburga 410
Bijapur 122
Belgaum 358
Bangalore (Urban) 610
Dharwad 96
Total 2,968

Profile of the Respondents:

All the children who have responded for the opinion poll are aged from 9 yrs to 17 yrs. Out of the total respondents 48% were males and 52% were females. While looking at the educational background of respondents, it is observed that 63% of the children are in main stream school; 20% were in child labour rehabilitation school/bridge school; 7% were working as child labourers and 10% have not mentioned about their education.

Summing up:

In listening to what these children are saying, it becomes clear what changes are needed in the state to realize their basic rights and thereby ensuring all the children about right to discrimination; right to survive; freedom for religion and culture; to develop to the fullest; to be protected from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life etc.

While looking at the all 18 indicators given for polling, it is observed that on an average 70% of the children polled that all issues are very important. 28% responded that these were fairly important and 2% as not important.

Top five indicators rated very important:

  • Protection from any form of exploitation – economic, sexual or use for any illegal purpose.
  • In case of disability of any kind be able to have a full and decent life as self reliance as possible.
  • Life, meaning survival and development should be protected.
  • Protection from illegal use of narcotic drugs and from being used in its production or trade.
  • Enjoy the highest standard of health with facility to the treatment of illness.
  • The so-often discussed free compulsory education is in the 6th place. This might be due to the composition of the groups; the large proportion of children polled in this survey is already in school.

Top five indicators rated “Fairly Important”

  • Freedom of opinion and expression and to information and meeting with others.
  • No interference to my privacy, home and reputation.
  • Protection from illegal treatment and detention in case of any conflict with the law
  • A standard of living that is needed for full development and to social security of every child
  • Freedom of religion and culture

Top five indicators felt to be “Not Important”

  • Protection from illegal treatment and detention in case of any conflict with the law.
  • No child should be discriminated against for any reason.
  • No interference to my privacy, home and reputation.
  • Free elementary education and access to higher level that helps to develop all my abilities and that is imparted with out corporal punishment or degrading me in any way.
  • Freedom of opinion and expression and to information and meeting with others.

A critical look at the analysis shows that children have given very significant place to protection issues, disability prevention and health care. Most of the responding children are from rural areas, and probably the survey indicates that they are asking for proper functioning of Primary Health Centers, prevention of physical assault in the form of punishment, child labour and also sale of children, child marriage etc.