As usual the activities in Shaishav never gets dried up as the monsoon in this part of the country. In fact there has been a multifold of activities took placed during the month of October and November.
In last week of October, Shaishav’s community team organized a residential camp in Bhavnagar for 38 child laborers, aged from as young as 8 years to 18 years. The main objective for organizing the event was to make them aware about the importance of education and to convince them to connect with preferably formal education or at least some kind of informal education. They were also given proper understating about all the basic rights through films, games and activities. The children were asked to prepare a drama wherein they themselves displayed how difficult circumstances they were passing through at their work places. They also discovered about some hazardous work which can cause severe damage to their health and risk their future. Children also expressed how badly elders use to behave with them. Towards the end of the two day program, children were asked to draw a dream tree, wherein they articulated their desires of life.
During first week of November, 15 senior team members from Shaishav, along with 7 Tarunsena members and 6 Balsena children embarked on their week-long study tour of few organization in Rajasthan. They visited Tilonia, MKSS, Loktantra Shala, Sewamandir, Shikshantar and Swaraj University. The team members closely observed and overviewed various activities and programs and understood the operations of these institutions. The tour provided a new vision and perspective to effectively improve on their performance.
Shaishav is currently a convener of Child Right Collective – Gujarat (CRCG). CRCG is a group of citizens and organizations committed to realizing the basic rights of children. In India, including in Gujarat, the child rights movement has evolved considerably since 1992. Organizations and sensitive citizens who shared the same views against child labour created a network to work in unison and to campaign against child labour and for the protection of other basic rights of children. The focus was on increasing awareness on the issue of child labour and its specific nature in Gujarat. The objectives of these efforts were to directly ensure the protection of children’s rights and to advocate at both the state and national levels to strengthen and stimulate relevant policies. Secondary objectives of the CRC-G included improving the level of participation amongst members, bringing the voice of children into policy debates and improving co-ordination between child rights organizations operating in Gujarat. Essentially, this would provide the child rights movement with a clear direction and a comprehensive identity (at the state level).
As a key contributor to the child rights movement, the CRC-G has organized various initiatives to increase awareness about children’s rights amongst the people of different communities in Gujarat. These activities include drives to enroll child laborers into schools and educational and recreational camps for working children, focused campaigns on girl child laborers, raising public interest litigation cases in the State High Court, sensitizing government and social protection bodies to the issue, and increasing awareness through the media. This continuous and diverse effort has yielded a positive impact on child welfare on both the state and national stages.
A number of organizations working with children in Gujarat have formed children’s collectives. The strength, form, participation and levels at which these collectives raise children’s issues varies. One thing that both UNICEF – Gujarat and the CRC-G feel strongly about is that efforts of the collectives are scattered and disjointed with limited learning and interaction in between individual collectives. This is not unlike the situation that existed for Child Rights Organizations in Gujarat before the formation of the CRC-G. Additionally, there are many national level forums such as the Campaign against Child Labour or the Right to Education Forum, seeking to address various children’s issues. However, like the CRC-G, representatives at these forums are adults which sometimes results in the views of children being diluted, inadequately heard or conveyed and in the worst case entirely lost.
This led to the idea of bringing these collectives under one umbrella and forming a state level forum for children. In essence, a body like the CRC-G but for children. This will ensure an optimum level of participation and enable children to directly and more effectively raise their concerns. Such a forum will afford children the chance of learning about the issues children face and what they are doing in other parts of Gujarat. Subsequently, they will work collectively to identify best practices and adapt these to the needs of their communities and use the experience to strengthen their own advocacy efforts. Given an appropriate platform, the CRC-G firmly believes that children can raise their voices more vibrantly, effectively and truthfully alongside adults.
The idea resulted in a four days long residential workshop, which was organized from 21st to 26th November 2015 at St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad. 44 boys and 46 girls from diverse background but mostly underprivileged, along with 34 team members and volunteers from 16 organizations from 12 districts of Gujarat, took part in the entire process. The age group of the children was between 12 to 16 years. It was ensured that the same children will attend the entire process to maintain consistency and participation. The entire process is planned in three intervals which is expected to be concluded in May 2016.
The first 4-day session began by giving all children a chance to share the nature, work and experiences of their own collectives. This led to the second stage which entailed bringing all children up to the same level in terms of their knowledge about children’s rights (in particular education, participation and protection), their violations and possible measures to ensuring rights. The final part of the session focused on informing the children and adults about the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the SDGs (in particular those that directly relate to children). Discussing the local realities of issues addressed by relevant goals, children identified (in broad terms) the gaps between their current situation and the suggested goal. They were also engaged on how to collect information on the gaps that have been identified during the session.
The children spent the time in between sessions to collect, document and debate data on different issues in the communities; meeting once at the midway point to ensure the process is running smoothly and to maintain interest. They also identified in more detail the mismatch between their current situation and their targets, share their experiences of the process so far and learn about how to effectively analyze their data during the mid-way session.
The final session was focused on analyzing and then sharing the information collected which was then presented by the children. Finally children created an Action Plans for both the local and the state levels. They were involved identifying overlapping themes and recurring issues and work collectively to create an action plan addressing common issues. They then presented their plans for execution which will be done with their individual collectives (at the local level) and as a “state level collective of collectives” at the state level. The entire process was very fulfilling and joyful not only for children but also for adults accompanied them. On the concluding day children went for an exposure visit to Gandhi Ashram and Science Museum.
We thank you all for the persistent support and encouragement.