The UN's Universal Periodic Review of India in May will see a submission by children from minority groups demanding higher percentage of GDP for education and health
In one city, in a house, a mother is getting her child ready for school, making him wear his uniform and packing his tiffin box. She then walks him to the bus stop.
In another city, another house, a mother is also getting her child ready and packing his tiffin box. But this is not for him to take to his school. He will go to the factory where he works as a labourer for minimum wages.
Why is there such a contrast? Why does one child receive education and the other is made to work? It is exactly the question that the ‘Nine is Mine' campaign is addressing. A campaign that started way back in October, 2005 demands from the government that 9 per cent of the GDP be spent on two vital development issues – education and health. The campaign, that is being spearheaded by child rights and other development organisations recommends that the government spend 6 per cent of the GDP on education and 3 per cent on health as it promised in 1967.
As part of the campaign, 18 children from the North East travelled from Shillong to New Delhi in what was called the ‘Nau Kadam Express' a few months ago. On the way they held ‘Children's Hearings' in nine states inviting child speakers from minority groups to talk about their own experiences of exclusion and poverty. The children who shared their stories were Dalits, slum dwellers, from religious minorities and the disabled.
The young child rights activists listened to all stories and compiled a report for submission to the United Nations so that it can be used for the Universal Periodic Review of India, to be held in May 2012.
Child advocacy organisation Edmund Rice International picked up the report and four children presented it in Geneva recently.
The four who carried the report -- Vijay Kumar, Aditya Garg, Rikida and Ridahul – came from a cross-section of society including the affluent class and marginal sections of society such as the tribals, migrants, Christian Dalits and the disabled.
In Geneva, the children presented the report to the embassies of Mexico, Australia, Ireland and Italy, most of which promised to extend their support.
The four children, now back home, are also busy campaigning and interacting with schools, development organisations, politicians, people from the entertainment industry and corporates to seek their support for their demand for 9 per cent of the GDP to be put aside for education and health. Efforts are being made to pressurise political parties to include this in their respective manifestos.
However, the children face a major problem – they feel they are not taken seriously because they are children. They say that their voice is often not heard by the authorities. Rahul Adikari said, “Most authorities do not pay attention to what we are saying because we are children. Some even think that we are making prank calls.” Another obstacle is the lack of media attention. “Without media support we cannot reach our voice to a larger population,” they say.
But youth and determination are synonymous of each other.
The kids involved in the ‘Nine is Mine' campaign are determined to be heard. “We are travelling the ‘Nau Kadam Express' and won't get off till we get somewhere,” they seem to be saying.