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State Children’s Parliament bags award

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Efforts recognised: Representatives of the Tamil Nadu-Puducherry State Children’s Parliament.
Efforts recognised: Representatives of the Tamil Nadu-Puducherry State Children’s Parliament.

S. Ganesan

The forum discusses issues impacting child rights

TIRUCHI: The Tamil Nadu-Puducherry State Parliament of Children has bagged the San Marino-UNICEF Award 2008 for child rights advocacy.

The annual awards are given away by the Alexander Bodini Foundation of the Republic of San Marino with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The TN-Puducherry Parliament of Children, the Young Africa Stars, Nigeria, and Kids Link, Fuji, were the three organisations which were selected for the 2008 awards. The award carries a cash prize of US $ 20,000 (about Rs.10 lakhs) to each of the three organisations.

The award was given away at a function held at New York last month and was received by Grazina Sen, wife of Nirupam Sen, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, on behalf of the State parliament, according to R.Isaac, President, TN-Puducherry, Neighbourhood Community Network, a voluntary organisation promoting children’s parliaments.

The concept seeks to organise neighbourhood children’s groups as parliaments at the village, district and state levels to discuss and lobby for issues impacting child rights.

The State parliament is a federation of about 3,000 neighbourhood parliaments. Each Parliament comprises 30 children, in the age group of six to 18, of a neighbourhood.

The district level parliaments elect the representatives of the State Parliament. The parliaments elect their own Prime Minister, Vice Prime Minister, Speaker and Ministers.

“Village level parliaments discuss local issues and act upon them. They also represent major issues to us. We, at the State level, have compiled the issues projected by these village and district level parliaments and plan to submit the document to the State and Central governments for follow up action,” said S. Paul Thomas, a Plus two student from Dindigul who is the Prime Minister of the State parliament, during an interaction with media persons here on Sunday.

Prominent among the State Parliament’s suggestions to the governments will be raising the age limit for compulsory primary education from 14 to 18.

Many children between the age of 14 and 18 were out of schools and working as child labourers, explained P. Sumathy, a Plus Two student from Salem and Vice Prime Minister.

Some of their other demands include effective steps to check female infanticide, sexual abuse of female children and providing basic amenities in all parts of the State for a proper growth environment for children.

The cash prize which comes with the award would be used for capacity building for child parliamentarians so that they were able to function more effectively as child rights activists, said Thomas.

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