Looking back on Child Rights Month, November 2020
The demand for child-friendly cities! Who would be best placed to define this than the children themselves? Taking this forward, YUVA has, over the years, facilitated the development of child leaders and children’s collectives, empowering them to fight for the realisation of their vision of cities.
YUVA remains committed to child-led city-building efforts and this year was no different. The COVID-19 pandemic, if anything, strengthened the resolve to build safer spaces for children as the lockdown witnessed a spike in the number of child abuse cases.
Bal Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathana (BASS), a children’s collective facilitated by YUVA, has played an important role in strengthening children’s voices and increasing visibility of their demands. In November 2020, YUVA and BASS together developed a campaign — My Ward My CPC — to demand the formation of functional Child Protection Committees (CPCs) in every ward of the city. This is mandated by a 2014 Government Resolution (GR) in Maharashtra which, till date, has not been effectively implemented.
The November campaign was an attempt to strengthen efforts that began since 2018, when BASS and YUVA collectively ran campaigns to push for not just formation but effective CPC functioning in every ward, operating as per the provisions under the 2014 GR.
Why are CPCs important?
CPCs help make cities safer in the following ways:
- CPCs are decentralised organisations that work at the grassroots level, making them efficient in providing contextual solutions for local challenges.
- The committee includes multiple stakeholders, right from anganwadi workers, non-profit workers, health workers to community members, local leaders. Thus the onus of protection is a shared responsibility and is jointly co-owned.
- CPCs require mandatory child participation, giving children a platform to speak for themselves.
- Most importantly, CPCs promote a preventive approach, whether it is about building the right infrastructure or engaging with local officials to ensure cases of crime against children decrease.
The strong need for ward-wise CPCs acted as the foundation for the ‘My Ward My CPC’ campaign by YUVA and BASS, where the activities and initiatives were designed along the above-mentioned four parameters. The campaign comprised of decentralised, local initiatives led by children, as well as advocacy with leaders and officials to ensure that children’s voices are heard and their demands are fulfilled.
The campaign as it unfolded
Six years since the 2014 GR, most CPCs still exist only on paper. The ‘My Ward My CPC’ campaign demanded the formation of CPCs in every ward of the city, with the support of different stakeholders.
Expressions via a poster and postcard campaign
As YUVA’s recent research report reveals, the lockdown has been tough for all, more so for children whose education and nutrition supply was highly compromised. The children used the campaign platform to share their experiences and challenges during the lockdown via posters and drawings.
Additionally, child members of BASS and other children from various communities (such as in Mankhurd, Dadar, Matunga, Bandra, Malad, Chembur, Jogeshwari, Parel, Ghatkopar in Mumbai and Belapur, Sanpada in Navi Mumbai) wrote 1000+ postcards to the Honorable Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, appealing to him to prioritise the formation of CPCs in the city.
Meeting decision makers to further stakeholder engagement
With the clear determination to pressurise leaders and decision makers to form CPCs, BASS and YUVA teams met decision makers, from the ward supervisors to corporators, to the Hon Maharashtra State Environment, Forest and Tourism Minister, Aditya Thackeray; Hon Education Minister, Varsha Gaikwad, Hon. District Minister of Women and Child Development of Mumbai Suburban, Ms. Shobha Shelar, and other local police officials, political leaders and shared their Demand Manifesto with them.
The campaign received a boost when the team approached the District Collector of Mumbai Suburban, Mr. Milind Borikar with their demands. The Collector not only accepted their demands but declared that by the end of the year, all CPCs should be formed and activated in the city. Moreover, he approved the CPC toolkit, curated by YUVA in collaboration with Department of Women and Child Development officials.
Media coverage and Twitter campaign
Issues and challenges faced by children hardly make it to newspapers and other media. To challenge this and make their voices heard the children were determined to engage in media advocacy. A 3-part series of the children’s expressions were published in Citizen Matters. The campaign was widely covered in the local media too.
A Twitter campaign also helped amplify the demands of children and increase public support for CPCs.
At the finale webinar on 27 November 2020, YUVA and BASS members shared experiences from the campaign.
BASS member Layba Ansari began by sharing how advocacy was the central tool in the campaign and meeting decision makers such as Honorable Ministers Aditya Thackeray and Varsha Gaikwad gave them the confidence to move forward with their campaign.
BASS member Samreen Shaikh detailed how they used various mediums such as videos, articles, songs, posters to make their demands heard in addition to directly meetings with local leaders to share their Demand Manifestos. BASS member, Shimon Patole, emphasised on the importance of media as a tool to visibilise their issues and vision for safe cities. He stated how the media helped widen the reach of their campaign in this COVID situation where mobility was restricted.
Media representative Raksha Kumar from Citizen Matters was thankful to the children for the insightful pieces they wrote. In her words, ‘I was happy to report direct voices of the children as what happens generally, is adults write and report on behalf of children.’ She encouraged the children to continue writing and extended her complete support to help amplify their voices.
Media representative Rahul Jainavar from Pratishta News stated the lack of media coverage of children issues. ‘It is important to increase awareness about the importance of CPC in cities to get citizens to support this cause. Media, I feel, can help a great deal in doing this’, he said.
Ms. Samiksha Sakre, Corporator of ward 135, Mankhurd in Mumbai, called on all Corporators to push for formation of CPCs. She assured that in future meetings held for Corporators across the city, she would put the children’s demands forward and appeal to all Corporators to set up CPCs in their wards at the earliest.
With the go-ahead received from the District Collector of Mumbai Suburban, Ms. Shobha Shelar stated that they are working tirelessly to set up/activate all CPCs in the city. She called on the children representatives and YUVA to actively participate and work collectively with the DWCD officials in meeting the year-end deadline for setting up functional CPCs.
In the coming weeks we are looking forward to achieving the following goals:
- Pushing for formation of CPCs as per the guidelines in the CPC toolkit and provisions mentioned in the 2014 GR
- Ensuring that dormant CPCs are activated
- Developing a city-level network which could act as a platform for children to discuss challenges, reflect from learnings and experiences in other wards of the city and most importantly, to aid children-led city-level campaigns
YUVA and BASS members are excited about how the campaign brought together stakeholders across all levels of governance — right from community members to non-profits, the media, and government officials to make cities safer by way of setting up CPCs. There is still a lot to be done, however. We are committed to making cities a better place for children!
YUVA Child Rights team, blog drafted by Vindhya Jyoti, YUVA