BAL SAWAAL, BAL DHAMAAL- CRY’S INITIATIVE TO SHARE THE VOICES OF CHILDREN.

My name is Priya Patil and I work as General Manager, Resource Mobilisation at CRY – Child Rights and You. I write to you today to thank you for what you have made possible by supporting CRY.

As a celebration of children’s achievements, on 14th November,2011 CRY hosted ‘Bal Sawaal. Bal Dhamaal’ in Delhi, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru. Here, children

from various CRY-supported projects shared stories of how they ensured rights for themselves and their community. Despite my dozen odd years at CRY, I was (still am) so inspired and motivated with what I saw and heard at this event in Pune that I had to share this with you.

The Pune event brought together 8 children from CRY- supported projects in Maharashtra. Meeting children from our projects is something that I always look forward to – it gives me a chance to see the positive impact created by CRY partners and donors. And every single time, I am overwhelmed!

So, I would like to share some of their stories with you… The first is that of Krishna Pinnalwar. He is 13 but looks much younger. Soon I learnt that he was no ordinary 13 year old, but he was the “Chief Minister” of his school’s Cabinet of Ministers. Krishna’s school had only 4 teachers for 7 classes; this was not acceptable. His children’s group approached the school authorities and addressed petitions to the education office to demand more teachers. The result… 2 new teachers were appointed within a week.
He said their struggle does not end here- their school needs better facilities, a playground, a lab among other things and he knows that he will be able to get them.

Next I met Sachin Kilnakhe from Nagpur. He is all of 15 years and growing like a beanpole. Very confident, very outspoken… at times sounding very grown up, and then suddenly like a child again. He proudly shared the story of how his group helped implement the Right to Education and prevented a girl from dropping out because her parents couldn’t afford a uniform. He confidently pointed out that under the RTE, the school was supposed to provide it. He also strongly believed that all children in the age group of 0 to 18 should be included in the RTE. He said – you can vote at 18 as per one law, but you stop being a child at 14 as per another. Either let me vote now or let me come under the RTE and complete my education.

The stories that these children had to share were endless. Each small step – getting 1 teacher, getting water, or even a toilet, has been the result of a huge struggle. But they made it sound so easy, we did this and we did that and we got the teachers, and we stopped child marriages, and we stopped our friends from working and they now go to school. But most importantly… we have so much more to do. What stood out most was that despite all their efforts, they realize there still is a long way to go.

When I got back from the event, all I could think about was my experience with the children and the sheer joy I felt at their achievements. I do hope you feel as proud as I do because you have played a key role in ensuring their confidence and determination.

I believe in children and their power to change the world. And I thank the thousands of children across the 5242 slums and villages that CRY supports who never fail to inspire us in what they can achieve.

I hope I have been able to give you a glimpse of the kind of change your support has created; change that is visible in the children whose lives we have touched together.

We have a long way to go to ensure that each and every child has the right to live, learn, grow and play and I look forward to your support to help us realise this dream.

With faith and goodwill,
Priya Patil

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