Children from 22 Parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu have come up with their manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The Parliament Elections-2019 Children Manifesto, which was released on March 20, broadly includes right to participation, right to survival, right to development and the right to protection. The manifesto assumes importance as it has been 30 years since The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed and 27 years since India ratified the convention.
The demands include the abolition of child labour till the age of 18, ensuring children’s representation in Gram Sabha legally and children’s council in every village, town and city. The manifesto also takes into account the challenges faced by children with disabilities, as it seeks adequate infrastructure (toilets, ramps, wheel chairs) and learning material for children who are differently abled, dyslexia and have special needs.
The manifesto has been put together after a two-day state level consultation earlier this month, with the children from across districts like Chennai, Thiruvallur, Kancheepuram, The Niligirs, Vellore, Vilupuram and Thoothukudi. While a similar manifesto was prepared ahead of the state assembly elections in 2016, this is the first time such an exercise has been undertaken ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Talking to The Federal, Virgil D’ Sami, director, Arunodhaya Centre For Street and Working Children that worked with several other NGOs working with children in different districts said that the children had showed a lot of concern for environment. “There were representatives from The Nilgiris that said that they don’t want forests to be cleared in their districts. They had rightly observed that human beings were taking over forest area prompting the animals to flee their habitat,” she said.
The consultation also showed the plight of girls in Thiruvallur as they drop out of schools because of inadequate toilets. Children with disabilities also voiced their concerns in the meeting. Varshini (name changed), a 14-year-old from Chennai spoke about how travelling to school has become an arduous task for her. She said, highlighting the apathy, “Since I have a hand related disability, I am often told by older people on the bus to stand and not take a seat. They ask me why I need a seat reserved, when my legs are fine.”
The manifesto will be presented by the children to state and central parties. Sugata Roy, communication specialist, UNICEF, said, “This is a unique initiative and whether they are in the ruling or opposition party, it is important for them to understand the crucial issues that get side-lined. Instead of someone else advocating for them, it is impactful when it comes from them.”