GUWAHATI, Aug 24 - In an interaction with senior journalists and young reporters of Assam at the Vivanta by Taj yesterday, Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Representative in India, on her maiden visit to the State, talked about the issues that affect the most vulnerable sections of society � children and women.
The young reporters who participated in the interaction programme are part of the Young Reporters� Programme of UNICEF and write for Mukta Akash, a quarterly newspaper on children�s issues. One young reporter, Sagar, has been raising awareness about social issues like child marriage and child labour through plays and has also successfully rescued one child from being exploited.
Vikas, another young reporter, highlighted the plight of children who are forced to work and earn for the family. Dr Haque said there are no easy solutions to such a grave situation where the child has to take on the role of an adult and bread-earner. Individuals need to come together to drive action on ground by partnering with gaon panchayats and other local authorities.
These young reporters from Nalbari and Kamrup, belong to underprivileged backgrounds but are committed to take a stand and work to bring about a change at their community level.
Dr Haque emphasised education as the first step towards empowerment while also noting that children in rural Assam lead an unusual childhood sans privileges.
Assam tackles one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates. Currently the State is dealing with the aftermath of the destructive floods, as PJ Baruah, Executive Editor of The Assam Tribune pointed out. Children are the worst affected with education and health having to take a back-seat, Baruah pointed out, to which Dr Haque said there is an urgent need for better disaster preparedness.
Dr Haque was accompanied by Dr Tushar Rane, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF, Assam and Alexandra Westerbeek, Chief, Communications and Advocacy, UNICEF, India. They all addressed the issues that were brought to fore. It was largely agreed upon that only a change in the people�s mindset can accelerate behavioural change.
On being asked about her South Sudan experience by senior journalist Mrinal Talukdar, Dr Haque talked about the condition of the most deprived children and how they aspire for safety, security and education. More than 70 per cent children under 18 have never been to a school, which was disturbing. On the other hand in India, initiatives like �NINEISMINE campaign�, led by the Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, serves as an example of advocacy where children have claimed the right to fight and demand their rights, said Dr Haque in answer to young reporter Geetali�s question.
Other senior journalists like Sumir Karmakar, Gaurav Das, Karishma Hasnat, Prasanta Rajguru and Prarthana Hazarika also participated actively in the discussion where the need for boat clinics during times of crisis and mobile clinics in tea gardens, support to the char areas and the need to address the concerns related to maternal care, immunisation programmes, etc., were highlighted.