Need for Children’s Collectives: The Power Enclosed In Small Hands
When children observe and understand their own issues, the answers start surfacing surprisingly faster.
12-year-old Mina (name changed) was walking to a nearby shop from her home when she heard a muffled cry. It sounded like the cry of a little girl behind the closed doors of a home nearby.
Mina rushed to the door and banged on it. A man hollered at her through the crevices asking her to mind her own business and scoot. She insisted he opens the door because she could clearly hear a girl howling inside, much louder than before. The door opened for a brief moment, a hand tried to catch hold of Mina, trying to drag her inside the house. Mina wriggled free of the strong clasp, kicked the man and came running outside, screaming. She managed to draw enough attention from the small community where she lived; people collected before the door in question asking the man to step out. He was a family member of the couple who lived in the house; they were daily wage earners and were away at work. The little girl found with him was from a neighbourhood home who was pulled into the house by him while she was playing.
What is a Children’s Collective?
Mina lives in Faridabad, and is part of a children’s group formed by the NGO Nav Srishti that works with CRY (Child Rights and You). A children’s collective, as its name suggests, works essentially for the children and comprises children of all ages.
They are made aware of the difficulties that other kids in their communities go through; they respond positively to finding solutions to the problems; and are vigilant about what goes on in their respective society.
The power of knowledge is indeed empowering. And the children in CRY project area of Faridabad demonstrate this feeling of empowerment when they set out to find answers to their problems.
An important aspect in community sensitization is creating a child-inclusive space and helping children to own their rights and voice their opinions.
Aslam is Aware of Child Abductions
Nine-year-old Aslam (name changed) knows that children of his age are abducted from the area, and are made to work in far off places. He understands that if a child is unguarded in the presence of strangers, it isn’t a safe situation. He also knows that he needs to alert those members of the community who are sensitized about the issue and are aware of what to do in those situations.
“A lot of young children go missing from many small colonies in Faridabad. The number of missing children is going up by the year, and we have to be observant about what goes on in the area”, he says.
Latika Knows About Sexual Harassment in Schools
14-year-old Latika (name changed) knows of children who have dropped out of schools owing to harassment; another prominent issue in the area.
There have been instances of girls getting verbally harassed while on their way to school. It isn’t such a simple problem as it’s made out to be; it can take aggressive forms when girls try to retaliate or ignore the issue for a longer period.
“There have been instances when people have tried to manhandle girls and cause problems because of which parents of these girls forbid them to go out of the house, leading them to drop out of school and discontinue their education when they are barely 12 or 13 years old. We need better surveillance in public spaces, especially those areas more frequented by children.” she added.
The Need to Involve Children
“In most cases relating to children, we are not consulted but a team of adults decide for us. For instance, when class supervision takes place, all the concerned teachers are called in to discuss how to improve the learning aspects of children, but we aren’t asked the same question,” says 13-year-old Meetu, who believes that the answers to her questions could come from children like herself.
Be it any concern regarding children, we are seldom asked to join the discussion.
These are the apprehensions that children shared when they were asked how their issues were being resolved.
The germ of a children’s group sprouts here; ideas are shared, solutions are probed and everything relating to them is discussed.
These children alert concerned people or establish contact with concerned authorities when they see fellow children in trouble or in need of help. The children identify protection-related issues when they see or hear about things around their vicinity; they not only recognize the many problems of their friends and peer groups, but come up with solutions for them as well.
This level of promptness is mostly met with speedy action, and steps are taken to immediately resolve the problem at hand, be it at a personal or organisational level.
The Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) comes alive here when children own their right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them. It stands to recognize the fact that children should have the full and final benefit of the rights accorded to them even though they largely abide by the rules of an adult world.
Children have to be encouraged to recognize their agency in effecting change in their world.
When problems related to protection of children loom large, the best way to deal with it is to let the children themselves be aware of what they can do to address the issues, and letting them take decisions based on their observations. The informed adults have to sit down with them and listen to their concerns, heed their decisions, and offer them more insight if and when they need it.
The more important aspect to be borne in mind is that children know their problems much better than elders; they know their world in a way that maybe adults don’t, and it definitely gives them the edge in suggesting probable solutions.
This helps them to be more confident of raising their voices, for others as well as for themselves, and it also reaffirms their faith in themselves, the system as well as the society.
(Soha Moitra is Regional Director (North), CRY – Child Rights and You.)
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