Guwahati, Nov 20 (IANS) As Assam gears up for the Assembly elections scheduled next year, over 4,000 children from 17 of the 33 districts of the state have put forward a manifesto of their issues and recommendations for the political parties to include them in their respective manifestos, a UNICEF release said on Friday.
Speaking about the manifesto released on Friday on the occasion of World Children’s Day, 16-year-old Kuldeep Narayan Borah from Majuli district said: “Through this manifesto, we present our recommendations to the political parties who are preparing their respective manifestoes for the upcoming elections in 2021.”
The manifesto is an effort led by PratYek, an NGO that convenes the ‘NINEISMINE’ campaign under the ‘Wada Na Todo Abhiyan’.
As part of the process, 40 organisations from different regions of Assam were contacted and sensitised through a series of online workshops between June and September on child rights, participation, climate change, sustainable development goals etc.
The release of the United Nations Children’s Fund said that a survey was conducted using both online and offline scorecards, wherein field coordinators from different organisations reached out to children and young people using digital platforms, and in some cases where digital engagement was not possible, via face-to-face interactions adhering to safety protocols.
In the survey, over 70 per cent of the respondents articulated the need for vocational training and career counselling, while another 70 per cent wanted mental health to be included in their syllabus while 92 per cent felt that gender-sensitivity and awareness about sexual and reproductive health should be made part of school syllabus.
According to the survey, 96 per cent felt that children in rural areas didn’t have access to affordable healthcare and access to nutritious food, 64 per cent identified violence as the most pressing concern for them and their peers, while 50 per cent highlighted substance abuse and 52 per cent highlighted child trafficking as major protection concerns.
In the survey, 72 per cent girls and 27 per cent boys demanded for safe and empowering initiatives for and by young people to protect and promote human and child rights, 85 per cent believed that leaders should speak to children and take their experiences and ideas into account when making decisions on environment and 63 per cent recommended that it was essential to ensure consumption and production patterns were sustainable.
“Children will not accept that we should return to the ‘normal’ after the pandemic is over, because for many children, ‘normal’ isn’t good enough. More than anyone, children have a unique ability to reimagine a more equal, just and sustainable world. Even though children don’t have voting rights, they are the future voters and decision-makers, and perhaps, leaders as well,” said Arman Ali, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People, and a representative of the NINEISMINE campaign.
The children’s manifesto will be presented to the political leadership, including the Assam Chief Minister and the Assembly Speaker.
Over the next few weeks, it will also be given to the opposition leader and all major political parties of Assam to include it in their manifestos.
UNICEF has initiated the ‘Reimagine’ campaign globally, calling on partners, governments and all UNICEF supporters to build a better post-pandemic world.