Children’s Voices Heard For Development Reasons

The village of Sonijavla has been with us since past a year, the work of CORO team has begun a year ago in the village. We have been working on the issues of Women’s rights and Child rights in Sonijavla. We have included and worked with every group of the village to make them realise about their rights and ensure that they get their rights. For instance, children’s group availing the right to protection and education. In the same manner, we work with the target group of children, in the month of January we had organized a consultation with the children. Here, all the children who go to school or don’t go to school prepared a list of questions they have, and they presented the list in front of Gram Panchayat, School management committee and child protection committee. The children put forth their requirements/demands in front of these 3. The people of the village paid close attention to the questions asked by the children, when the children had this discussion and presented a list of questions the parents felt shocked as to how come their children are questioning the gram panchayat, SMC, Child Protection Committee in front of them, in a way the children also asked questions to the parents. This is for the first time children have come to the Gram Panchayat, before today they have never come, and on the very first day their skills of questioning and demanding their rights and needs in front of so many people in the panchayat surfaced, parents felt this phenomenon strange and new. the children were unabashed about it, they seemed confident and determined. The children posed the questions regarding the problems faced in the village such as water scarcity, resource exploitation, farmer distress, poverty, lack of pakka roads despite being the funds allotted by the govt. so on and so forth. The members definitely felt the phenomenon new, but the members and parents of those children felt proud at the same time. The questions that were asked by the children were cross-checked, countered several times, few of the members even tried to threaten the children! One of the members from the village asked the children “Do your teachers beat you in school?” The children answered “No”, but then the member mockingly said to the children “that because your teachers are sitting here, you will obviously say no”. All the other members also laughed. The children still stuck to the answer of “no”. The members said “it was just a normal question out of curiosity, don’t take it negatively please”. Then the members themselves encouraged the children to state the problems of the village that they have observed or felt. The children were asked to speak freely & give their critique. So, children gave their opinion on the following issues which they had written down before the Gram Panchayat begins…

1. Stop the child marriages in the village, do not let child marriages happen, stop giving importance to this social evil.

2. Start the hostel facility for children whose parents go to the factory for work.

3. For the protection of young girls, adolescent girls and young adult females, please establish a police station in the village.

4. Provide open space for the children, so they can play there.

5. The classrooms of G.P School leak during monsoons, please get it repaired.

6. The facility of drinking water is not available for the students of private school, please make the drinking water facility available.

These were the issues that were raised by the children, the governance of the village has only been able to address only 2 issues respectively of drinking water facility and classroom leakage. The credit for this goes to the children.