GANGTOK, Aug 3 - A child-friendly Gram Panchayat Unit (GPU) programme was launched for the first time at 46 Barfung Jarrong GPU, one of the identified pilot GPUs in the South district, at the auditorium of the Chandraman Rai Secondary School, Jarrong, on Friday.
The first-of-its-kind initiative in Sikkim is by the District Child Protection Unit (South), aimed at establishing a child protection mechanism at the grassroot level. The child-friendly GPU will entail a series of activities and programmes to educate and sensitize communities about children�s rights and child protection issues. It will also help build a platform to empower and engage children in the decision-making process through Bal Panchayats and Bal Sabhas. Children can voice their opinions and raise issues concerning them through these rural instruments. An effort will also be made to build human resources by identifying community volunteers and building their capacities in subjects like child counselling, child rights, and legislations related to children so that they can provide emergency relief and rehabilitation services to children in difficult circumstances.
The formation of such an establishment will also facilitate convergence of different departments to bring child-related programmes and services under one roof and make them accessible to children of the community. It may be mentioned that two more GPUs have been identified in South district.
Speaking on the occasion, District Child Protection Officer (South), Roshnila Gurung, who has conceptualised the child-friendly GPU initiative, stated that considering the rising crimes against, and abuse of children in Sikkim, she felt the need to address such issues. She pointed out that Sikkim stands third among the North Eastern States with the highest crimes against children after Assam and Mizoram as per a National Crime Records Bureau report. She further stated that through the creation of a child-friendly GPU, a strong support system within the community for reporting of cases and providing emergency assistance, medical, financial, legal, psychological and rehabilitation help is possible. She stressed that by empowering and engaging children by providing them a platform where they can voice out their opinions, solutions to various problems that concern them can be facilitated through Bal Panchayats and Bal Sabhas.
Gurung also urged the public to reach out to every family and children in difficult circumstances through the child protection mechanism established within the GPU. She highlighted the aspects of empowerment of families and children of the GPU so that every child of the village can grow and develop to their full potential.
The programme saw the attendance of officials concerned, members of NGOs, senior citizens, panchayat representatives, school staff, teachers, children and local people.