My name is Pravin and I live in Sai Shraddha area of Ambujwadi slum. I am a child leader of the children’s collective Bal Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan.
I was 11 years old when I met didis from the non-profit Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA) in our community. YUVA had set up a Child Resource Centre which had toys and a library. Gradually, children of the community, including myself, started visiting that centre and from the activities at the centre we got motivated to work on different social causes. It was in this Child Resource Centre that I and other children got united and we together formed a collective called Bal Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (BASS).
YUVA organised several lectures and workshops for us to increase our knowledge about our rights and different social problems. With time, our collective got bigger with more children joining in and we started working in the community for different issues. I remember, one of my first initiatives was School Chalo Abhiyaan in 2015, wherein our BASS team conducted a survey of the community to see how many children have dropped out of the school and want to go back to school. With the support of YUVA, we then helped enrol these children in the BMC schools.
In addition to this, our collective has also organised several rallies. In these rallies, we make posters and slogans for making our community members aware about important child related problems and recent issues, for example child labour and the Hathras rape case.
I personally feel that our current system (the government and the officials) are not doing enough for the children. There is a limited budget and initiatives to support children and provide them with basic resources and rights. Children are ignored by everybody. It is important that the government understands that we children are not just the future of India but also the citizens of today and therefore, it is very important to protect our rights.
To ensure these rights, the most recent achievement of our BASS team along with YUVA is the Bal Sabha that we organised on 29 October 2020. We had drafted a Manifesto — A Charter of Children’s Demands. We put in all our demands in the manifesto — all that the children needed — such as street lights, secure toilets, tablets and internet connection for online studies, etc. These demands were decided through several group discussions which were conducted in our areas. We did a community visit and then all the children together prepared this manifesto.
We had presented our demands to the officers who came to attend the Sabha — the Child Protection Officer, Principals of Schools, Child Protection Committee Members and the Education Officer. The officers also agreed to our demands. They said that as soon as our schools open, we will get a school bus for the community. They also said that police patrolling will increase and an open space will be claimed for children which can be used as a ground for playing and recreation. However, we will have to continuously follow-up with the authorities and take updates to ensure they keep their promises.
I am happy that I am a child leader at BASS. YUVA supports BASS, but we as a team independently speak to government officials and ask for our demands. In the past few years, I have learned about child rights and the importance of child participation at the family, community and government levels. I wish to continue taking the initiative and working for children’s rights in the future as well. My dream is to give the UPSC paper and join the Indian Administrative Service.
Pravin Kadam is appearing for his tenth grade board exam this year. He lives in a slum named Ambujwadi. When he grows up, he wants to be a civil servant.
This article was first published in Citizen Matters, a civic media website and is republished here with permission. © Oorvani Foundation/Open Media Initiative.