Sri Lanka has the highest score in child-friendliness index

India has done the most towards establishing an enabling legal and policy framework for children in the SAARC region, closely followed by Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka have scored very well on health, education and child protection outcomes including birth registration and chid marriage, says a new survey.

Overall, Sri Lanka has the highest score in the child-friendliness index though all countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan, have made important progress in most of the themes covered by the report.

The South Asian Report on the Child-friendliness of Governments evaluates the efforts of the governments at fulfilling the obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The survey has been done by the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children — a SAARC apex body.

“A gradual change is happening in South Asia, as governments are taking important steps to acknowledge and implement children’s human rights, often in collaboration with and influenced by a range of non-state actors,” said the report released on the eve of a meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation here. This is particularly true in India and Bangladesh but the other governments have also taken some action.

Since 2000 in particular, governments in the region have put in place a basic enabling framework of laws, policies and institutions for implementation of the Convention and made important progress in children’s health and education. However, countries that did the most for putting in place an enabling structural framework have not always been able to ensure good education, health and protection outcomes, nor have they necessarily promoted children’s voices in decision-making at local and national levels.

Despite the progress, 500 million South Asians still live in extreme poverty, and there are great disparities between rich and poor children. Inequalities, gender discrimination and conflicts based on religion, caste and ethnicity deeply affect children, who are also influenced by social norms condoning child labour, child marriage and corporal punishment.

There is need to better ensure children’s legally enforceable right to health, education, protection and participation, and to ensure that the structural framework in place has the power to create change, says the report.

Stronger mechanisms are needed to translate new laws, policies and institutions into meaningful entitlements and services for children; data collection should be used more systematically to track progress; and further collective efforts of governments, inter-governmental organisations, non-state actors, communities and children are necessary, nurturing a cadre of child rights professionals and activists. Of the greatest importance is inclusion of children’s issues at the highest political level in national planning, budgeting and governance.

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