GUWAHATI, Nov 20 - Along with the rest of the country, Assam joined the world to celebrate World Children�s Day today with a session of UNICEF �Activate Talks� at the Assam Legislative Assembly under the leadership of the Speaker, Hitendra Nath Goswami.
The day marked 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly.
The Assembly session was hosted by young advocates and attended by MLA Roselina Tirkey, government partners, civil society, community leaders, children and young people.
The talks were in the form of testimonies as defenders and champions of child rights that focused on solutions towards tackling issues related to violence against children. These were delivered by adolescents and young people, experts and thought leaders, who had used innovative platforms and solutions to deliver results for the most vulnerable and marginalised children and young people in Assam.
The speakers included 21-year-old young reporter Fazal Haque, 22-year-old panchayat councillor Akoni Lohar, 17-year-old UNICEF youth advocate Nahid Afrin, Deputy Commissioner of Sonitpur Manvendra Pratap Singh, Advisor to the Government of Odisha Anubhav Patnaik and others.
�Children�s and young people�s participation in governance processes at different levels � state, constituency, village � is critical. In the Assembly, we are engaged in lawmaking, budgeting and representation. In our constituencies, we need to have our ear to the ground and assess whether services promised are reaching the 41 per cent of Assam�s child population. By increasing awareness among children and young people and including them in discussions, we can create child-centric strategies for implementing laws, programmes and schemes, ensuring that every child in Assam has access to their rights,� said Assembly Speaker Goswami.
�For UNICEF, children and young people are partners in development. While they are the future decision-makers with their votes, they also understand specific needs and vulnerabilities of adolescent boys and girls and therefore can provide solutions. We have been engaging with them across the State on a regular basis � creating democratic spaces for engagement,� said UNICEF Assam chief Dr Madhulika Jonathan.
MLA Tirkey said, �The issue of violence against children is critical, especially in the context of Assam, given the number of inequities that have remained unaddressed for generations. And these are heightened for a large number of children in tribal, riverine areas and other vulnerable communities such as the tea gardens.�
Despite a thrust on protection of children in Assam, statistics suggest that a lot still remains to be done on this front. About five per cent of Assam�s child population is working as per the Census of 2011, a U DISE report (2016-17) suggests 80,175 out-of-school children, whereas one in three women in the 20-24 years age group said they were married before 18 years of age (NFHS-4, 2015-16) and about 14 per cent women aged 15-19 years are already mothers (NFHS-4, 2015-16).
In today�s programme, the policy makers pledged to increase participation and engagement with children and young people at the Assembly and constituency level, involving them in decision-making through strengthening of formal structures such as shishu sabhas in schools, gram panchayats, young people�s groups such as NYKS, NSS and NCC.