Delhi: In line with the global commitment to leave no one behind while advancing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda, as well as the Government of India’s focus on inclusion and ‘putting the last child first’, Plan India has been actively supporting children’s rights with a special emphasis on equality for girls, through its campaign – Plan For Every Child (P4EC), launched in 2016.
As part of this year’s efforts, Plan India, in collaboration with its technical partner Pravah, is organising state-level debatathons, where youth from various parts of the country will discuss gender issues and challenges, ideas for bringing about gender transformative changes and debate on possible solutions to address the issues. Suggestions and deliberations from these state level youth debates will be translated into state youth charters, which will be presented at the National P4EC Conference, to be held from November 1 – 3, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, where the winners will come together to debate on the solutions at the grand finale.
The fifth edition of this state debatathon was organised in Delhi from October 23 – 25, 2017, where 23 youth participants in the age group of 18-24 from various colleges and universities, engaged in debates to discuss prioritised issues of young girls in vulnerable situations, with a focus on possible solutions. At the end of the debates, the participants put together a state youth charter with specific recommendations on quality education and child labor, which was presented to Ramesh Negi, Chairperson, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR).
To ensure that No Girl is Left Behind, the Delhi chapter of the youth charter made the following specific recommendations:
On Addressing Quality Education:
· Ensure schools have clean toilets for girls and safe drinking water for everyone. Also ensure provision of free access to sanitary napkins for all girls, specifically from middle school onwards.
· Include comprehensive sex education in school curriculums (middle school onwards) to break social taboos and stigmas.
· Ensure mandatory parent-teacher meetings once in two months to enhance parent and teacher accountability.
· Conduct periodic school audits/inspections involving School Management Committees to prevent dropouts of girls. For example, audits could be conducted using the framework of indicators mentioned in Plan India’s Gender Vulnerability Index.
· Reform school curriculums by introducing experiential and skill based learning processes.
· Effective implementation of a student-teacher ratio of 1:30, as per the Right to Education (RTE) Act laid down by the government.
· Ensure girls having access to trained counsellors in school to have a space where they can discuss their issues. School to also make counselling outreach services available in their communities.
· Provide subject specific remedial support to girl students within schools. Also take support from community members and NGOs to create informal spaces to offer learning opportunities like dance, music, arts etc.
· Create safe and informal spaces for strengthening student and teacher relationships.
· Budget allocation for education should be increased to 6% of GDP.
On Addressing Issues of Child Labor:
· Build awareness through social media and mass media about the various forms of child labor and the laws against child labor. Also involve eminent scholars, individuals and domain experts to host workshops about the issue in schools and universities to build more awareness.
· Recognize people who report cases of child labor, to assist in government monitoring.
· Develop nuanced guidelines for differentiating between child work and child labor.
· Provide residential education programs as rehabilitation for children who have been rescued from child labor, and include vocational training in the curriculum for strengthening possibilities of job opportunities.
· Address child labor issues in the mandate of the National Service Scheme (NSS) or youth clubs that run in institutions of knowledge.
· Actively participate and generate awareness on Anti-Child Labor Day (June 12) via youth groups, organizations and schools/universities.
· Identify high-priority areas for potential child labor and host focused integrated development programmes (on education, health and livelihood trainings) for children who are likely to get into child labor in each block.
· Develop and publicize an app that tracks the progress of children who have been rescued from child labor.
· Establish and strengthen community-based child protection mechanisms under the arena of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme, where village/ward level child protection committees could be formed to eliminate child labor.
Commenting on this initiative, Ms. Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director Plan India, said, “For nearly four decades, Plan India has provided spaces for youth to continuously engage, inform and govern programmes implemented in their communities. They raise their voice to influence different stakeholders on issues that affect them and the lives of children. This initiative aims to also engage youth outside our programme areas, so that they participate in larger discourse, raise awareness and advocate for girls’ rights.”
These state-level debatathons will culminate in the National P4EC Conference, which will bring forth the voices of 200 youth from across the country. The conference will focus specifically on girls in marginalised, excluded and vulnerable situations, and will present the interface of inclusion, access and opportunities for girls within marginalised groups.