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“Because I am a girl”

Nov 26, 2010

In today’s world filled with instances of gender based violence and discrimination, it is imperative to take initiative to help the girl child overcome barriers and realise her dreams, feels the CEO of Plan International, Nigel Chapman.

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Like it or not, children begging on the streets, dipping into roadside bins for scraps, working as domestic helps and in other sundry jobs is a reality even when laws exist to prevent them from it. Doing such jobs invariably means not attending school. The story, therefore, doesn't end there. It ultimately retards their role as the country's future citizens much before they realise it. And if it is a destitute girl child, it is a given that her state is even worse.

In such a scenario, when Nigel Chapman, visiting Plan International CEO, introduces his organisation's vision as “creating a world in which all children realise their full potential,” it brings some hope for our deprived children. Chapman, formerly with the BBC in various senior positions for 30 years, is in New Delhi “to attend the meeting of Plan's international board of members in the assembly and discuss international issues.”

But his focus seems steadfast. “The main purpose, however, is to interact with underprivileged kids and women and those in special schools and try to emphasise on our key campaigns here like ‘Learn without Fear' and ‘Because I am a Girl'.”

Plan India, here since 1979, is present in 11 States today, working for child rights, particularly for the girl child, besides launching programmes to empower underprivileged women. Here, the London-based Chapman takes some questions to bring before readers the work of the NGO that has a presence in 66 countries now. Excerpts from an email interview:

Why does Plan International emphasise on rights of the girl child in different countries?

Through 70 years of work at the grassroots, Plan has always found girls as the most discriminated social group. So we aim at investing in the girl child to bring about a shift in social attitudes toward them. Our programmes at the grassroots level are designed to protect girls so that they may be born, get education and healthcare. Plan works out initiatives that help them break the cycle of poverty.

Plan is working in India since 1979. What would you name as call it your achievement so far?

In the last 30 years, we have accomplished great milestones by closely working with the Government on various social issues. Working with India is vital for us. We work to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of underprivileged children in developing countries through a process that unites people across cultures and adds meaning and value to their lives. Our process includes enabling deprived children, their families, to meet basic needs and to increase their ability to benefit from their society, build relationships to increase understanding among people of different cultures and countries and promote the rights of world's children. We try to bring expertise from Plan International as well for a smoother execution of the policies laid.

What is your “Because I am a Girl” campaign? How do you plan to better the lives of our girls through it?

In today's scenario where girl child is facing discrimination, whether it's about her gender, health, education, getting basic amenities, etc., Plan India has taken the initiative to help the girl child overcome barriers and realise her dreams through this campaign. It is focused on empowerment of girl child in rural and semi-urban areas.

Besides, we implement projects on promotion of health, education, water, sanitation and livelihood. Amongst women we have promoted early childcare, safe motherhood and behavioural change in hygiene practices along with access, retention and quality education in children across a continuum of 3-18 years in school. Another major achievement is in providing job training and placement support to young girls in the new market economy and formation and strengthening of women self-help groups.

Plan has been working for child rights in 66 countries. Where do you think it has succeeded in bettering the condition of children?

We believe in simple strategies and approach to tackle child right issues. Over the years, Plan's approach has moved from direct benefit to sponsored children to the more comprehensive child-centered community development approach. We raise awareness on the rights of children to learn in a safe (violence-free) environment in schools and the negative impact of violence on children.

We also advocate with government agencies for effective enforcement of legal protection for children, including making corporal punishment illegal in schools. We work for the development of support and reporting mechanisms for children against violence in schools besides ensuring access to methods of positive engagement in classrooms for teachers/institutions.

Source : The Hindu
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