Are you giving your child his rights?

Though Ayesha’s father is a ragpicker, she is not like any other street kid wearing shabby clothes with disheveled hair and running nose. She is in eighth standard and can communicate in English without sounding unintelligible.

She knows that she has the right to attain good quality education and thus the onus for this is on everyone: Parents, communities, elders, teachers/school authorities, civil society and the government.

“If I am able to practise this right I will be able to develop my talents and abilities. It
will also help me learn to live peacefully, protect the environment and respect other people,” says 14-year-old Ayesha. She did not receive support from the people living in her area in New Seemapuri when she was enrolled in a school.

“Times have changed. Now, when my neighbours see me easily fill any kind of form, they too want their kids to get educated,” says Ayesha, while addressing a gathering at the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by United Nation International Children’s Emergency Fund. Ayesha, today, along with NGOs in her area has been educating others about the rights of a child.

UNICEF along with Nine Is Mine conducted a survey among children across the country to understand how they view the status of their rights and that of other children in the country. In a unique and an innovatively designed survey, children rated achievements and the lack of implementation of 45 of the Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The survey reached out to a total of 10,000 students between ages 14 -17 years where they talked about their right to an identity--an official record of who they are, right to best health care possible, safe drinking water, nutritious food, a clean and safe environment and information to stay well, which means right to be free from sexual abuse, no one is allowed to kidnap and sell them; to be protected from exploitation; no one is allowed to punish them in a cruel or harmful way.

They have the rights to be protected from kidnapping. On this the popular opinion is that protecting children from trafficking is the responsibility of every individual and not just the government. They want communities to be more vigilant, according to the findings of the survey.

Interestingly, children have the rights to give their opinion and adults should listen and take it seriously and not dismiss it. They have the right to choose their friends and join or set up groups, as long as it is not harmful to others. |

Children want their rights to be protected from being hurt and mistreated in body and mind. They want the government to focus on vulnerable groups of children who face abuse regularly and that laws be implemented strictly and offenders punished.

The survey showed a clear urban/rural divide and to some extent also between children from government and private schools. Children in urban setting felt they were better off when compared to those in rural areas. Awareness of some rights like those relating to identity, life and health were known, but an understanding of other rights was at different levels and in some cases not there at all.

Mostly, children held authorities responsible for lack of awareness and implementation of child rights, though in some cases it was felt that parents could do more.

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