Children advocating for their rights in India

    “Provide employment to our parents!

  “Create a conductive atmosphere for children’s education!

            “Supply significant and equitable education for all and finally,

make children free from work!

These are just three of the key messages children figured out in a workshop on child’s work organised by Time to Talk!-partner Sikshasandhan in Mayurbhanj, India. The children were asked to identify and to talk about their problems and what key Points and suggestions for improvement of their situation they want to present to local authorities. This Public Action of the working children of Time to Talk! took place on 12th June 2017, which is the international “Memorial Day against Child Labour”.

Within the Time to Talk! campagin children from all over the world were empowered to organise Public Actions in whatever form they want, to present and share their messages to local authorities. In the case of the Indian delegates they pledged to strengthen and advocate social development in the region by improving job opportunities for parents and to prevent school drop outs of working children. To illustrate their messages the children created creative banners.

Child Protection Officer

The local authority in charge of child protection issues, Mamata Mayee Biswal, District Protection Officer of Mayurbhanj, was willing to meet the children. They got the chance to talk with her about their concerns. She explained that any exploitation, harassment or violence against children is reported to her. Mayee Biswal listened to all these concerns and said that she will activate a child protection committee. The children were really grateful and happy about this possibility: “We never consulted before to express about our concerns and feelings. It was very much exciting.“ Time to Talk!-partner Sikshasandhan will collaborate with the local government in this initiative and support Mayee Biswal’s effort. Together they want to create some model of Child Protection committee to extend child participation. It is important to let children participate, to realize that the children´s voices are heard.

All children have equal rights to participation without discrimination. In order for children’s participation to be effective, ethical and sustainable, it is essential that certain principles and standards are complied with. On the basis of the ´9 basis requierements for effective and ethical child particpation” this can be ensured. One of these principles is that participation must be inclusive, avoid existing patterns of discrimination and encourage opportunities for marginalised children.

The Lodha People in India

That particular requirement is incorporated into practice through this remarkable Public Action: about 50% of the children who participated belong to a tribe called Lodha. Since colonial era the Lodha people were oppressed by the British government because of their way of living. The Lodha are an agricultural community, so they were merciless supressed and robbed of their original livelihood. As a consequence they were forced to take criminal ways but even today the people adopted that ‘once a criminal, always a criminal’ and the Lodha people are still seen as law breakers. Social exclusion has led to the fact that the Lodha people (especially the children) are being pushed into helpless conditions.

Background Information

As per census 2011 Mayurbhanj district has an average literacy rate of 63, 12 % which is still too low. Education is the key to help children to stay in school and find a way dealing with their (future) work. A great step into the right direction is that the District Child Protection Officer directly interacted with all the children and, most important, assured that she will collaborate with Sikshasandhan to strengthen the child protection committees. On that way, it will be possible to listen to the children’s voices, to include children from all Backgrounds and to provide opportunities for marginalised children.

Sikshasandhan was founded in 1995 as a resource centre for education. Their mission is to provide a form of education from and for people that are poor and marginalized. They think all people have the right to exercise their freedom and to live in peace. Sikshasandhan is a partner organisation of  Kindernothilfe e.V.

The activities are part of the Public Action weeks carried out by our partner organisations worldwide under the slogan “It’s time to talk about …”. During this time children and youth will be discussing the challenges, risks and necessities of child work in workshops, theatre performances and child marches to attract attention to their situations by different stakeholder groups.