We owe our children a life free from hunger, fear and violence. A nation’s progress is fittingly judged by how we protect our children. Today on Human Rights Day, we need to examine how far we have come as a society in addressing the rights of the most vulnerable — our children.
In 1948, India signed on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a statement that set forth in the clearest possible terms the understanding of rights, the basic entitlement of each and every human being, and the expectations from the national leadership in order to ensure, a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”. In the ensuing sixty-five years since its passage, India, as a young and leading developing nation has expressed a commitment towards these goals through its constitution as well as various social welfare schemes and policies it has created. However, as on ground experience has time and again shown, implementation leaves much to be desired.
In terms of progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals, (MDG) a most recent Government of India report1 states the country’s progress as being on track for only some part of five of the eight MDG goals. The nation is self – admittedly lagging behind on crucial commitments, specifically addressing hunger and malnutrition (MDG 1, target 2) stemming child mortality, (MDG 4 target 5) health care of mothers, (MDG 5 target 6) and ensuring quality education (MDG 2, MDG 3 target 4). India is struggling to build citizens for the expanding world, with many existing barriers to being disease – free, basic nutrition, health and secondary education.
A recent CRY report, ‘Status and trends in Child Rights in India’ validates this conclusion. The statistics in the report, mined from government sourced or approved data, clearly indicates that our children grapple with harsh realities today. The national dropout rate at the elementary level is over 40%; every second child in India is malnourished; 47 out of every 1000 live births do not complete their first year of life and only 54% children receive full immunization. Children below the age of 18 years account for over one third of our overall population and hence their well being is critical for the overall progress of the nation. Providing secondary education and further avenues for professional education, halting and reversing the nutritional deficiencies, ensuring quality education are multiple challenges before the government in order to develop citizens, not just for tomorrow, but also for the present scenario as well.
If anything has to change, our leaders need to reconfigure their priorities to put children first. With the general election around the corner, let’s start by asking all political parties to place up front and centre clear commitments to children. Let us as citizens of this country come together to create a large enough vote bank that demands that the rights of children be a primary talking point in this election. That much more is done for children.
Children must be recognized as rights holders and people in power must remain committed towards providing care, protection, essential services and opportunities to each and every child.
Children deserve the collective demonstration of our commitment towards ensuring their rights.
So at the XVI Lok Sabha elections, let us all “vote for child rights”.
Kreeanne Rabadi is Regional Director, West for CRY – Child Rights and You