In India, the world’s largest democracy, millions of children are still denied their rights. But, this situation can change.
This was the clarion call sounded at the press conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York by CRY – Child Rights and You America Inc. (CRY America), CRY’s partner in the US on May 28th, 2008.
Panelists comprising Shefali Sunderlal, President of CRY America and Dr. Niraj Mishra, Founder of a grassroots organization in India, SATHEE (Society for Advancement in Tribes, Health, Education, Environment) highlighted the continuing dire situation of such children and presented a proven, lasting solution.
At the conference, Sunderlal cited India’s stark dichotomy, “While India is experiencing unprecedented economic growth and success, it is yet to attain the most basic social development indicators for its children. Millions of underprivileged children have their survival threatened on a daily basis due to malnutrition, illiteracy, child labor, preventable diseases, abuse and exploitation.”
“Sustainable change is possible only if underprivileged communities are actively engaged in seeking solutions collectively and issues are addressed holistically from a social justice perspective”, said Sunderlal. “Through this child rights approach we have witnessed in hundreds of villages, 100% enrolment and retention of children in schools, villages that are 100% child labor free today, villages that have functional Public health facilitates and issues of child marriage and child exploitation addressed. Just handing out food or rescuing children from sweat shops are temporary solutions. It is essential for communities to address age old biases such as gender and caste discriminations which are deterrents to lasting change.”
Mishra presented a firsthand account of the success of the “child rights approach” at SATHEE, a CRY America-supported project. One of SATHEE’s various community initiatives is the formation of ‘Bal Sansads’ (children’s parliaments) in villages across Jharkhand. In these forums, children question their situation in the presence of local officials and demand that their basic rights to education, health, sources of livelihood for their parents, and freedom from labor and exploitation be restored. “Girl children who once were confined to the four walls of the house have now become flag bearers of their communities by having a say in decisions affecting their lives, like saying ‘no’ to child marriage,” said Mishra.
CRY America replicates the success of projects like SATHEE across India and has positively impacted the lives of 156,503 children in 1,211 villages and slums through support to 30 Projects in just 5 years of its existence. “This change would not have been possible without the 8,100 donors and 500 volunteers that support CRY America” said Sunderlal and further stressed the need for such continuing support, “CRY America believes in the power of people – of individuals and organizations spurred by the belief that ‘Change is possible, because I will make it possible.”