An experiment to set up model child-friendly city councils
On Friday evening, 100 newly elected councillors congratulated each other politely, shaking hands, slapping each other on the back, exchanging high fives, on the good fight and victory at the hustings. They also resolved to meet after the weekend, to chart the agenda for their city wards.
We must also add that these councillors were aged 12 to 17 years old, had no criminal record of any sort, no assets to declare, held elections in a free and fair manner, and will work during school holidays. Yes, during school holidays, when they are not attending classes or writing exams, these 100 child councillors will work for the welfare of their area and represent the grievances of children to the powers that be. It is part of an experiment to set up model child-friendly city councils, in an attempt to involve children in local governance.
Ramya of Aunodhaya, one of the organisations choreographing the events from an adult perspective, says, “It was the children who decided when the elections should be held, how, and where.
They also managed to fix the arrangement for voting in the 10 wards that we had chosen in Royapuram, Washermanpet, Tondiarpet (three), Tiruvottiyur (two), Sholinganalur, Kodambakkam and Ennore.”
Manikkam is one of the core child organisers in North Madras. He explains that the elections were completely fair, conducted in the best democratic tradition. “We were quite surprised to see parents escorting their children to the booth so that they could get to vote. This is part of the success of the programme.”
Further children representatives from the 10 wards will once again be elected to represent their wards at the zonal level, and subsequently two children from every zone, one boy and one girl, will form the city council.
Virgil d’Samy, of Arunodhaya says the whole point of the exercise is that at some point, this model child council will be recognised by our coporators and legislators.
“Then we can probably say the children have a role in local governance, as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child envisages.” Virgil d’Samy said.
Sapitha studies at KRCARC Higher Secondary School in the 9 standard, but more importantly, she is now a child councillor.
“I went around the area and campaigned for myself amongst the children. It is so good that 43 children voted for me. Now, there is a lot of work for us to do,” she says in right earnestness.