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Community participation key to children's well being

Sep 09, 2009

Community mobilisation and sensitisation play critical role in achieving holistic development of a child, says a new report jointly released by Save the Children and Public Interest Foundation in India’s national capital. There is a need to take small efforts that can multiply with the greater involvement of people.

New Delhi: Children are the future and the true wealth of a nation. However, increasing exploitation, involvement in hard labour, trafficking, illiteracy and social exclusion are depriving millions of children in India from their basic right to healthy living.

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Save the Children-Public Interest Foundation study, Communities for Children: Selected good practices in improving children’s well being through community participation, was released against the backdrop of this dismal scenario of deprivation faced by children in the country and the successes and failures of existing government schemes.

The report looks at 30 different practices and ten key processes. These include: Raising awareness, mobilising communities, sustained engagement, establishing community-based organisations, capacity-building, strengthening local governance, addressing inequities, empowering women, etc.

Dr Shanta Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) releasing the book said: “We are going through difficult times. This book presents a hope for not only the defenders of child rights but also for field practitioners.”

Community mobilisation and sensitisation can help in achieving child’s well being. Local platforms can be used effectively from generating awareness to building movements to persuade and orient communities towards general and specific issues, she said.

"Solutions are ultimately local and should engage community as the central driver of that solution"

“Saving and protecting children need an intensive political activity supported by moral force. Communities must take charge of resolving conflicts through wider participation in development activities,” she added.

Dr Bimal Jalan, Member of Rajya Sabha and Chairman of Public Interest Foundation said: “In child development programmes, the chances of success improve significantly when there is active participation from the community. This, in the process, brings about community ownership and ensures greater effectiveness.”

The study documents many good practices that bring forth the need to develop a long- term strategy. It will go a long way in shaping inclusive attitude to strengthen socially disadvantaged groups and facilitate their representation in all the activities.

Case studies

The Rainbow School, an initiative of Loreto School, Kolkata runs a tutoring programme for street children. With the support of teachers and local community, many child domestic workers have got an opportunity to study. Under the initiative, as many as 700 children are receiving free education in regular schools.

On the other hand, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) with its presence in north, central and western parts in India has been building pressure for the release of children working as bonded labourers.

Similarly BBA’s child-friendly villages have facilitated children’s participation in achieving child rights.

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“India’s economic growth has bypassed children. About 47% children remain malnourished. They are dying due to causes and diseases that can easily be managed and treated. It is sad that 75% children are born at home without any medical assistance in rural areas,” said Dr Abhay Bang from SEARCH Foundation.

His organisation provides community-based solution to the problems of high neonatal mortality rate (NMR) in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra through its Home-Based Newborn Care (HBNC) programme. The initiative has successfully brought down child morbidity to 30%.

He emphasised on taking small efforts that could multiply with the greater involvement of people.

Save the Children Chairman Arun Maira said: “Whatever be the model of change, solutions are ultimately local and should engage community as the central driver of that solution. While scaling up will be essential, multiplying the successes on the ground is equally important.”

“From scaling up there is a need for splashing around,” he concluded.

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