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Children finally get space in manifestos of political parties

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Apr 8:

For the first time ever, most of the major political parties in the fray have allotted a special section focusing on children’s issues in their manifestos, thanks to the concerted efforts of civil society groups.

“Civil society has been campaigning for the inclusion of promises for children for many years so that their special needs related to education, health and protection can be met….Indeed, these elections give an opportunity to the public, civil society, industry associations, trade unions and other organizations to engage with political parties to influence the governance and future course of action, which will hopefully lead to policy reforms and ‘change’ for children, especially those from the marginalized communities.”  said a release issued today by the advocacy,campaign and communication co-ordinator for Save the Children, Odisha Ms Bharati Chakra.

( pic : www.savethechildren.in)
( pic : www.savethechildren.in)

The release informed that on the Public Day of Action, last Saturday at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, about 1,000 children and 23 civil society organizations – including Save the Children, World Vision, Wada Na Todo, Youth Ki Awaaz, GAIN, CRY –under the Nine is Mine campaign,  had gathered to highlight the fact that children (who comprise about 40 per cent of the country’s population) should not be forgotten by voters and political parties in the world’s largest democratic exercise”,

Steve Rocha, from Nine is Mine speaking on the occasion said, “Children can’t vote. Therefore, it is important they should be able to influence people who represent their issues and concerns in parliament.”

Save the Children had launched the #VOTE4CHILDREN campaign in the run up to the general elections to raise the children’s issue on top of political and public agenda. Under the campaign Save the Children, along with other child rights organisations and civil society actors, met with political leaders across parties — both at the national and state level — to influence political parties’ election manifestos.

According to Shireen Vakil Miller, Policy and Advocacy Director of Save the Children, the NGO has developed a roadmap for influencing the governance for child rights in India which covers five key demands. “These five demands — if prioritised in policy — would greatly enable scores of children, especially the most marginalised,  in the country to have access to quality education, address their health needs, and create robust institutional framework for effective implementation of the policies,” she believes.

The release gives details of the five demands/

Top 5 priorities for Children

(A) Increase investment for child protection, education, health and nutrition.

The budget for children is only 4.64% of the total union budget. It should be increased upto 10% of total budget. The public expenditure on health should be increased upto 5% of GDP as per WHO standard and the public expenditure on education shall be increased upto 6% of GDP for filling the position of teachers and quality education as per the norms of Right to Education Act.  Since child protection is a major concern, the budget allocation for an integrated child protection scheme should be increased five-fold.

(B)  Amend the Child Labour (Prohibition and regulation) Act to ensure all children has access to Right to Education and harmonize the age definition of all child-related legislations in line with the National Policy for Children 2013, where every individual below 18 years is recognized as a child.

(C) Declare access to quality primary healthcare as a fundamental right. Introduce the National Health Bill, 2009 to enable citizens justifiable access to basic healthcare with a special focus on women, children and unreached population.

(D)  Establish an independent, convergent body that will anchor nutrition at the national level, develop a national nutrition policy, and issue orders for conducting a comprehensive periodic survey on nutrition to track progress in eliminating malnutrition. Establish Nutrition Missions in all states with high levels of malnutrition.

(E)  Elevate the Ministry of Women and Child Development to the status of the Cabinet Ministry to strengthen the focus for child development and protection.

With these demands, Save the Children and other child rights organisations have been  engaging with the political parties to draw their attention to the issues of children, with possible solutions emerging from its programmes that are replicable. Many political parties have welcomed the recommendations being made by Save the Children and incorporated these as crucial promises in their manifestoes, the release said.

The #VOTE4CHILDREN campaign will continue to bring together efforts online through pledges urging the public to vote for a candidate who commits to taking concrete steps for ensuring the rights of children. A tweet-a-thon has been scheduled for April 9 at 1pm, where the public can tweet with Nandita Das, Harish Iyer and other celebs who are supporting the campaign, the release added.