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 Children  India Project #20765

Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India

by Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA)
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Transform childhoods of 300 slum children in India
Reena and her friends enjoy ludo at their home cum
Reena and her friends enjoy ludo at their home cum

Play is the most fundamental element of childhood. It contributes to the overall development of a child- physically, mentally and emotionally. Moreover, Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child (UNCRC) has recognized the right to leisure and play for every child as a fundamental right. As per this right, it is the responsibility of parents, civil society and the state to ensure that a child is not deprived of the right to play – either due to social reasons or structural causes.

Social reasons include high incidence of child labour in low-income communities where a child is deprived of their right to education and their right to play/leisure/rest. A child is forced to work in order to meet the family’s financial needs. There is also a lack of faith in the system of education where parents feel that even after studying children will not be able to get a good job to pull them out of poverty.  In contrast, there are many children who are also facing increasing educational pressure, private tuitions and other religious teachings, owing to which children have very limited time to play. Structural reasons include the lack of public and open spaces for play, increasing gentrification of public spaces, and the failure of the state and communities to render spaces safe for all children, especially those with special needs.

Despite these reasons and the current situation of the global pandemic, children continue to find ways to play at home and in their gullies (alleys/lanes) where they live. This international play day on the 28th of May on the theme of “Play is more than just a physical activity…“ In effect, children are playing creative indoor games and traditional games in the community. The following pictures provide a glimpse of the celebration of World Play Day in the community.

Play breaks barriers of gender, religion, caste, language and brings children on one platform. Indoor games are also inclusive to children with a physical disability. Children as a group are inclusive and welcome all others. The lockdown has interrupted the study and play a schedule of children. They are, however, trying to get back by making a daily schedule and log of activities and engaging themselves creatively.

Esha and her friend are getting ready to play marb
Esha and her friend are getting ready to play marb
Ruksar and her friend play house-house and kitchen
Ruksar and her friend play house-house and kitchen
Young Soni plays with her favourite doll
Young Soni plays with her favourite doll
This group of children are enjoying their game of
This group of children are enjoying their game of
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The mental health of children

 

Lallubhai Compound, Mankhurd, has witnessed a high incidence of suicide and other cases of mental health among the younger demographic. Continued displacement from habitat, lack of basic facilities, neglect due to family disputes and single parenting are some of the issues that have contributed to it.

 To that effect, screening the Marathi film Killa was an attempt towards creating safe familial spaces for children in the city. The film initiated a dialogue between children and parents of the resettlement colony on developing a healthy relationship.

 The children in the audience shared how they related to the fear of exams, the bond of friendship, and the excitement with respect to the opposite gender, among other things shown in the film.

 They identified with the 11-year-old protagonist’s struggle to cope with his father’s death and mother’s subsequent job transfer. And spoke about the role of friends in life, the loneliness after shifting to a new place, and the struggle of making new friends.

 “Life is nothing without friends. But it takes a healthy environment to yield good friendships. It is important for children to realize that such bonds can also be developed with family members,” a woman said. “The child in the film was very clear-headed. He understood his mother’s tensions at work and accepted her job transfers with patience.”  

 Another parent conceded that “we also face tensions at work and we often vent it out on our children.” She added that “it is important that parents responsibly spend time with children so they don’t feel neglected and alienated.”

 The children understood the importance of a good relationship between parents and children. And held that both sides need to develop an attitude of understanding for the same.

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To commemorate UNCRC and popularize children’s right to meaningful participation on the theme “Ensuring child rights with child participation”, a child-led caravan traversed the city of Mumbai on 20th of November, the day when the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children) was signed by 196 countries globally.  We believe that children and young people can play a significant role as agents of transformation with the capability to engage in decision-making processes, in accordance with their evolving capacities and gradually increasing autonomy.

 

 The Caravaners

35 Child leaders belonging to the Bal Adhikar Sangarsh Sangatan (BASS) at Mumbai City level traversed the city in the caravan reaching out to many more children, young people and adults, and also duty-bearers and people in the system namely- Corporators, railway police, government officials, etc. educating them about child rights and the power of child participation

 

 The Caravan Journey:

Caravan launch with the Inauguration Event held at Gurukul school, Malwani, around 10.00 AM

Panel discussion with the duty-bearers: School principal Mr. Farid Shaikh, Community Development Officer Mr. Mahindra, Member of CPC and Anganwadi supervisor Ms. Shubhangi Rane, YUVA organization representative, member of Child Safety Support Forum and Women’s Cell Ms. Parineeta, Journalist and Social Activist Mr. Nisar Ali, and Child Representatives from BASS Malwani- Sachin and Shivani- discussed their commitment to child rights and what they can do to ensure meaningful child participation in the system

In attendance were the students of classes 9 to 12 of Gurukul high school and junior college, YUVA staff, bass members, Anganwadi teachers. More than 100 students and children were present.

While addressing the school students the Mr. Mahindra shared his own journey of coming from BMC school and how he faced problems using English while speaking and how he preferred Marathi over English was humorous to learn about.

 

Pooja Yadav while answering the questions asked by a student present there - 1098

Children below 14 years old should not be allowed to work.  As there are constitutional safeguards to protect their rights and it’s a punishable offence to make them work in households and factories.

Every child is important and she enforced, “You all are change makers, you come ahead, you work for them (children). Then change can definitely happen in the society

 

Principal sir,

You all can teach students as giving examples of few who have taken the initiative to teach the students at their own homes. By calling children who are working in nearby hotels. And made them ready for basic education. Minimum literacy. He appreciated Maharashtra government where a student even if he’s not going to school, he can directly appear for class 8th exams and will be eligible for board exams.

Out house schools: for the children who need to work so their houses have inflow of income to survive and sustain. So, it’s not necessary that a student necessarily needs to go school so this option is available and can be promoted.

Also, he asked student, “Can you share your education?”, as every time depending on government will not work. He strengthened his point by stating Malvani population which counts around 9 lacs. And for this large number police force of 1500-1600 should be there. but instead of that the number of police men in marginally low and is 140. It was understood that Manpower is low. Going for regular rounds, while on duty is challenging so you can’t depend on government for everything and every time.

“You need to learn to come forward so that you can benefit the others as you are privileged but not all are. You need to demand for your needs then only it can be provided. Fight and get it. If you can fight you can survive. What you want to do fight for your rights? Or Accept your fate and be silent? And blame the government.

Further, Alicia substantiated Principal Sir’s points by adding, “We need to support the system for the growth. Change can happen if we want”

After the formal discussion Chief guests were felicitated by giving roses and Sumati tai gave certificate of commitment to the guests who were there to attend the Inaugural discussion. Tai was glad that the knowledge which we got was immense from everyone who came and like always powerfully propagated:

“Bal shakti aayi hai..          Nayii roshi aayi hai..          Ladenge..        Jitengee…”

Women’s cell counselor was called on stage and Nisaar sir told students, “utilize time on sports for physical and mental wellbeing.”

 

With this the opening session got over and Alicia requested everyone to move towards the road where the Caravan flag was waiting to be waved. Teachers along with Principal Sir came forth and everyone was led by Zarin and Bala where the bus was on hault.

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Due to the economic insecurities and financial hardships that people residing in communities in Mumbai face on a daily basis, they find it difficult to access their basic rights and services. One of the major challenges of the people has been to get proper educational facilities for their children.

To help fill the gap and facilitate their access to education, Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) conducted a distribution drive among the communities where notebooks, pencils, erasers, sharpeners and other stationery items were handed out to the children of the communities.

Given that the monsoon season was just around the corner, umbrellas were also distributed among the communities to help them gear up for it and be rain-ready.

The distribution drive received a positive response from the community as they received the required support and a helping hand to access the basic facilities, precisely, education. The community children were delighted at the support received from YUVA.

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Catch up on the camp, and how the children plan on working on their dreams and rights beyond summer.

No other words hold truer for the children residing at Lallubhai Compound, a nearly two-decade-old rehabiliation and resettlement colony in Mankhurd, Mumbai. It’s day one of the summer camp on 13 May 2019 and the children are ready to get their creative cells off and running. Their young leaders have divided them into groups by age, handed them a sheet of paper each, some pencils, sketch pens and crayons. Dressed in loose summer clothes and immersed in the goings-on of their respective groups, some of them are right on the threshold of teenage. Older as they are, they must think about the future —how do they see Lallubhai Compound in the next five years? This image they must transfer into colourful works of art.

As they delve into this unknown, there is but one constant reality they have known forever — the inadequacy of the living conditions in this colony. The younger children, perhaps hovering around their eighth or ninth years, have to draw this reality, the reality of the places that scare them in their localities. Nevertheless, bubbling with energy on a hot May afternoon, they get rolling. At the Child Resource Centre set up under YUVA, about thirty-five to forty children from Lallubhai Compound and Annabhau Sathe Nagar create a cacophony of child-chatter as they draw and quarrel, giggle and create art. Their conversations are anything but pointless, as any uninformed adult would imagine them to be.

From Day 1 of the summer camp, dedicated to art and craft

When asked what places worry and scare them the most, almost unanimously the younger ones talk about playgrounds and gardens infested with drug addicts, lightless and narrow streets teeming with catcallers and physically unsafe routes they are forced to take to school. While most of them are enrolled in local public schools, the quality of education they receive is often below standard levels, leave alone ideal conditions, and their cramped houses are a reflection of forces holding them back from progress — abusive and/or drunk family members, poor access to basic amenities like adequate water, sunlight and hygiene and, more importantly, the social stigma they face on a daily basis within and outside the compound. Simply speaking, they are deprived of all the tools and mechanisms that a child needs and is legally entitled to so as to develop in a holistic and wholesome manner.

Of safe spaces, stages, and more

Fortunately, this dearth of child rights implementation is far removed from the children’s awareness of the same. The Bal Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (BASS), a children’s collective, was set up in the compound (and in separate city localities) several years ago, functioning as a platform for children to participate in inclusive community and city-building processes. The BASS children’s voices are not just heard, they are accepted and considered as valuable insights. BASS has seen almost three generations of child leaders grow into well-rounded young adults and the current leadership is no less courageous, outspoken and well-informed about their rights, be it on areas such as recreation, privacy, education, safety or other important concerns. A group of around 200 children are led by 40 core group members, where pairs of girls and boys each handle 10 members and hold regular group-level meetings.

Detailed monthly plans by BASS members displayed in the Child Resource Centre, Lallubhai Compound, for reference

At BASS, the children regularly voice the concerns that affect them deeply. They take collective action in the form of demonstrations and rallies in their localities, door-to-door conversations, events, action to claim spaces, letters and manifesto contributions to local municipal leaders, informational pamphlets and meetings with children and also build bridges with the police. In all these engagements, they maintain crisp records of their activities, and minutes of meetings which help them reflect on their journey and plan for the road ahead. BASS functions democratically, with elections held for leadership, and the group provides an equal opportunity to children to express their opinions. Although facilitated by YUVA in its early years, BASS is now functioning independently and members even aim to get it registered as a separate unit of action and change.

Why the summer camp?

Now in its fourth year, the summer camp is one pivotal initiative of the BASS, held over the course of a week in the summer season. Beginning with an inauguration ceremony that involved the screening of an organically shot film on the BASS, the summer camp had a packed scheduled with a wide array of indoor and outdoor activities planned for the attending children. During this week, at any given time, the Child Resource Centre (CRC) was populated by at least twenty children attending workshops by external resource people attached to the cause or even simply spending time with their mates.

Glimpses from sports day during the summer camp

 

After the day dedicated to arts and crafts, there was a sports day at a local playground that the children had claimed for play for themselves earlier, followed by a film-screening of Hitchki (2018), Bollywood’s take on education and child rights in bastis. Next, the children were introduced to the classical art form of Bharatanatyam and how they can use the performing arts for social change, considering the BASS’ frequent street plays and other performative awareness campaigns. Last, a captivating magic show culminated into a cultural event organised entirely by the children, for the children, involving dances, rap performances, plays and speeches. The children learnt skills, felt entertained, gained confidence and displayed their innermost talents — all overlain subtly on the issue of children’s rights.

Dance for social change

But why is the summer camp such a crucial event in the BASS’ meticulous monthly plans? Says Sagar Reddy, a BASS leader, ‘It was all about participation and to encourage children to get out of their houses during the summer and get involved in exciting activities’. It is the real-life embodiment of the right to play and recreation, something that is a rare occurrence for many of these children. Additionally, BASS makes it a point to invite local leaders, police officers, aanganwadi sevikas and other stakeholders to their events, such as the cultural event, so as to increase their engagement with the cause as well as to allow children to interact with the authorities that hold the power and resources to make actual, on-ground changes to their living conditions.

The summer camp also functions as an induction programme for newer children joining the BASS. It brings together the whole community of children in Lallubhai Compound and Annabhau Sathe Nagar, helping them let their hair down and simultaneously affect change in the lives of more and more of their contemporaries. They also get an opportunity and the right stage to express their respective talents. Most importantly, the young leaders learn how to think critically, work on ideas and create plans after in-depth discussions and to operate in an egalitarian, responsible and participatory manner. The children place into action the life skills they learnt in YUVA’s workshops, as a result of which the BASS has gained independent capabilities.

Ultimately, as Samreen, another BASS leader tells us, the activities of this summer week are the perfect tableau to encourage external visitors to contribute in whatever form and capacity they can to the cause of the children in the basti. They are also proof that with guidance, conceptual and social education and with opportunity, each child can rise up to the occasion and become an accountable, creative and sensible citizen of the society, community and the country.

What happens when the summer ends?

BASS’ young citizens dream far and dream large. The summer camp has been a successful venture for them, a venture that aided them to create a safe and fun space for children to grow and shine. 2019 has been a year of many firsts for them, given that they have become fairly independent in their functioning with support from YUVA. And they hope to take the legacy forward and do better what only they can do best, given their proximity with the community at large and with first-hand experience of the challenges they want to overcome and the will to do so with informed action.

Another important module of their work involves networking with local stakeholders, resource persons and public outreach. The young leaders already have a vast existing network, meant to support and even actively get involved in their activities, but their efforts are endless in this regard. At the core, they function with a deep understanding of group-learning, teamwork and cooperation, as can be seen in their tech-savviness, detailed monthly plans and coordination meetings but it is their spirit for growth, for change and their social consciousness that sets the BASS apart. When asked where they hope to take their operations, Mahalaxmi, a young member of the core group said, ‘I want that the processes of the BASS move faster and that we are able to spread operations all over Mumbai and beyond so that issues like child labour, child harassment, and more can be tackled quickly’.

When the summer ends, so will the summer camp, but the children’s hopes, dreams, aims and goals remain intact. They’re all prepared to convert the midsummer night’s dream into a whole reality, to create for themselves a new, warm and safe reality.

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Organization Information

Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA)

Location: Navi Mumbai - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @officialyuva
Project Leader:
Roshni Nuggehalli
Navi Mumbai, Maharshtra India
$5,136 raised of $6,000 goal
 
108 donations
$864 to go
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