The pandemic outbreak has affected the overall well-being of children. It has enhanced the vulnerabilities and risks pertaining to care, protection, nutrition and education. The break on continuity of education has led to a spike in child labour, child marriage and trafficking. The impact of this crisis has undoubtedly been more acute on children from marginalized communities. To help them cope with these tough times, we recently launched ‘Child Connect’ – a national campaign to identify potentially vulnerable children, and support communities to ensure safe, secure and happy childhoods for all children.
In Tamil Nadu, we organized programmes across several districts from January 24 to January 31. During these meetings, nearly 1,500 children from the most disadvantaged contexts came forward and shared the wide-ranging issues they are facing during this distressful period. This included children of migrant workers, domestic workers, saltpan workers, fish-workers, garment workers and bonded labourers; children with disabilities; children exposed to disasters; and children from Dalit and tribal communities. Children shared how they had to drop out of school to engage in labour to support household expenses, besides facing food shortage for days given the break in mid-day meals and mental trauma amid these hardships. The Child Connect campaign in the state also oriented members of School Management Committees (SMCs), village-level Child Protection Committees and other frontline workers on how to approach relevant departments of the government to access benefits of the various welfare schemes and entitlements. They, thereafter, reached out to the concerned authorities, urging them to ensure continuity of children’s education and to take urgent measures towards preventing early marriage and child labour. They also requested life-skill trainings for children, promoting their access to scholarship schemes, nutrition support for adolescent girls, separate girls’ toilets in schools, and building awareness on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
In Odisha, with an aim to build awareness on child rights among communities and to facilitate convergence among government’s various line departments to strengthen related mechanisms, the Odisha State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (OSCPCR) started a state-level campaign, Sishu Sampark Yatra. Together with ChildFund India, we participated actively in the campaign. Launched on January 19 in Puri, this initiative would work towards highlighting the issues faced by children amid the pandemic. During the first leg of this campaign, OSCPCR visited several blocks of Puri and addressed grievances pertaining to the cases of violation of child rights in those blocks. Subsequently, similar programmes were organized in Keonjhar, Gajapati and Bhubaneswar districts. OSCPCR has also instructed the Child Welfare Committees, District Magistrates and Collectors of other districts of the state to initiate similar processes.
In West Bengal, we are facilitating a youth-led campaign to promote the concept of child-friendly villages in 110 villages across nine districts of the state, involving more than 1,000 adolescents. These young community leaders are meeting with their respective Panchayat representatives, urging them to initiate activities on child protection in the Panchayat planning meetings. Following this initiative, the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) has issued a letter to the District Magistrates of the concerned districts, exhorting them to ensure that child protection issues were placed in the agenda of the Panchayat planning meetings for the year. In Dakshin Dinajpur and Murshidabad, the district administration has issued an official order to the block-level administrations to initiate the same.
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