Thirty years after the historic commitment of adopting the Convention of Rights of Children by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th November 1989, let us explore Aide et Action South Asia’s work that has helped transform children’s lives across the region, especially India.
Defending Child Rights through Education
The exploitation of children, who are poor and illiterate, is easy as their rights remain unnoticed and out of reach. The exploitation increases exponentially if the children belong to other disadvantaged groups, which include girls, migrant children, tribals, minorities, dalits, children with disabilities, and so on. It is beyond doubt that without a school, it is difficult to raise awareness among children and the communities. To address this problem, Aide et Action has promoted access and quality of education for all children in schools in line with the Right of Free & Compulsory Education act 2009 in India, particularly by improving enrolment & retention through the strengthening of school governance committees. “We understand that community-led monitoring is essential for the better functioning of the schools. Keeping that in mind, we focus on the formation & strengthening of School Management Committees in all the schools. There are several instances where the teachers started coming to school on time after the SMCs members were capacitated on their roles and responsibilities,” says Saravana Kumar, Project Manager, Bandipur School Development project. Child clubs and parliaments were introduced to encourage children’s participation in issues of importance in a democratic manner. The children now have better access to nutritional and medical entitlements, which help the children to focus to fulfill their educational needs. “In the ENLIGHT project, we reach out to girl children from difficult circumstances in 9 cities of India. Specifically, we provide medical and special nutritional support to girl children with disabilities and girl children infected/affected with HIV. We ensure to provide psycho-social counseling, medical & nutritional support, thereby, preparing them to access education which is their right,” says Sajeev Balan, Director – Program Development & Support, Aide et Action South Asia.
Guarantying rights to the unreached
Migrant children are often deprived of ‘care’ and ‘early stimulation’, face neglect and inadequate care. In the absence of crèches and early childcare services, the transition to formal schooling remains incomplete. Migration also delays school entry, denies or interrupts schooling, triggers dropout, and turns children vulnerable to child labor and exploitation. Our intervention supports migrant children of parents working in brick kilns and construction sites across Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Bihar states of India. Through the Child Care & Learning Centres set up with the support of the employers, young migrants avail a safe environment, care & support, and education in the worksites. Support from local integrated child development services, schools, and public health centres has enabled access to nutritional, health and educational entitlements. “Our interventions have helped the parents and employers understand the need to educate the children in worksites. With the setting up of CCLCs, we could ensure that all the worksites where we are operating have become child labor free zones. Parents have even started sending their children to nearby formal schools,” informs Umi Daniel, Director – Migration & Education, Aide et Action South Asia.
Photograph Courtesy: Naïade Plante
Protecting children’s rights after disasters
Children are incredibly vulnerable when it comes to disasters. They are at high risk of abuse, violence, neglect, and exploitation. In such a situation, Aide et Action has been providing safe & child-friendly spaces where the children receive psychosocial counseling and are encouraged to learn and play with their peers. This helps them to recover from the trauma and builds a resilient attitude. For instance, children affected by Fani cyclone in Odisha were given access to child-friendly spaces where trained volunteers engage them in various creative activities necessary for them to heal post-disaster trauma. The children restart their schooling once the damaged schools are reconstructed and functional.
Aide et Action will continue to advocate and promote ‘education’ as a tool to enable children and communities aware of their rights which will ultimately break the cycle of poverty and pave way for a sustainable and equitable future.