Submitting children demands to the party offices

KCRO and CACL-Karnataka chapter have done an advocacy campaigns during several elections of all levels (Garamapanchayat, ward sabhas , M.L.A, M.P elections), to sensitize and influence political parties, on the one hand, to include adherence to child rights in their manifestos and speeches, with specific mention of, and commitment to, the most serious issues in the state.On the other hand, we are in a process to sensitize the electorate to include children’s key issues in their demands and to judge how the candidates spontaneously refer or react to them.

The campaigns have succeeded in convincing several political parties and candidates and also voters to stand for child rights and vote for child rights. The feedback we have received are quite encouraging and demanding, as the issue in this nature is something new to the political parties as well as candidates.

Children’s Parliaments:

In an effort to promote child participation, Children’s Parliament was started by KCRO, the output and follow-up of the initiative was more effective. Consultations for children to speak out freely on various issues concerning them. Children’s Parliament will be held at various districts; in some, candidates also participated and had discussions with the children. This resulted in various political parties giving promises to children in the areas of child health, education and protection. (These children’s parliaments are not mock sessions of the real parliaments, but sessions for children to speak out freely on various issues concerning to them).

From 2007 – 2011, children’s parliaments were held in 27 districts of Karnataka to bring together children for a debate on the situation and priorities of children. People’s representatives from the selected districts will be invited to interact with children. The response and expectations of children will be compiled together to be taken to the people’s representatives at state level.

The demands made by children were circulated to KCRO partners in every district who used it to advocate with representatives standing for local elections. (Pre-election advocacy)

In continuation to the above district level children’s parliament, kcro for the first time in karnataka’s history conducted children’s parliament at vidhana soudha on the occasion of children’s day (14th-15th nov 2012). Mr.sadananda gowda, honorable chief minster spent time with children in which the following were the highlights of the meeting:

  • Child representatives from thirty districts congregated and raised their issues and concerns in the presence of key people’s representatives and legislative Forum for Child Rights.
  • Child participation and expression were encouraged.
  • Chief Minister and legislators were sensitized about the problems faced by their respective constituencies as well as State’s children.

Karnataka Chief Minister Gives A Patient Hearing To The Children’s Demands

It is not every day that one gets to see Karnataka Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda answering a series of questions posed by none other than children. However, this is exactly what happened on November 15, at Conference Hall No. 333, Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore, when the Chief Minister was grilled by around 80-odd-children from different parts of Karnataka, on various issues pertaining to child rights. Along with the chief minister, several members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) and members of the legislative council (MLCs) participated in the discussion, where child representatives took the centre stage. Along with the CM, MLAs Sri Manohar Maski, Sri Ne. La. Narendrababu, Sri Basavaraja Horatti, Smt. Vimala Gowda, Sri Mukhya Mantri Chandru, Sri Harris and other legislative assembly and legislative council members were also present. UNICEF Hyderabad representatives Dr. Yogendra Mathur, Sri Soni Kutty George and Smt. Nina Nayak, Chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), members of the NGOs and media were also present. The CM and his colleagues signed their commitment to the Child Rights Commitment poster and inaugurated the programme.

The event was part of the state-level Children’s Parliament hosted at Vidhana Soudha for almost two hours—11.00 am to 1.00pm. The unique attempt to help children raise their issues directly in front of highest policy makers was a collective attempt by Karnataka State Legislators’ Forum for Child Rights, Karnataka Child Rights Observatory (KCRO) and supported by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Hyderabad. For the first time in the state, a chief minister had held consultation with the children directly and listened to their problems in the Vidhana Soudha, the epicenter of power.

Be it the low-quality food supplied at anganwadi centres, or the discrimination faced by HIV-positive children, the young participants at the session minced no words in bringing forth issues related to school-going children across Karnataka. The other topics which figured during the interaction between the Chief Minister and the children included lack of infrastructural facilities in schools, lack of good quality teachers in schools, problems faced by disabled children, stray dog menace, poor health care facilities, education of migrated children, trafficking, female foeticide, lack of transportation facilities and ban on liquor, to name a few.

If 14-year-old Mohammed Anas, a student of Shivarama Karanth High School in Putthur complained of the huge amount of corruption involved in the supply of food to anganwadi centres by highlighting the involvement of teachers in selling off food meant for children, then another teenager expressed his plight at being thrown out of his school, after he was found to be HIV positive.

The courage and conviction with which the children addressed questions to the Chief Minister left everyone baffled. Right from politicians, bureaucrats to activists, everyone present at the event praised the children for their in-depth knowledge of ground realities, and passion to solve their problems.

A patient Chief Minister, after listening to the children assured them that their issues would be addressed immediately. He also asked the children to write to him directly whenever they faced any kind of discrimination or violations of their rights.

As part of the Children’s Parliament, young participants were provided a day-long time on 14th November to interact among themselves and prioritise their issues to be discussed with the CM. This coincided with Children’s Day celebration, observed across the country. Many of the children who participated in the state level children’s parliament felt that the momentum now created should not die down with this particular programme, rather the process of children’s representatives meeting the Chief Minister and other cabinet ministers with their demands should become a regular feature every year.