Political Leaders in Odisha Agree to Build Consensus on Children’s Issues

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Bhubaneswar: A ten-point charter of demands representing voices of children and young people from across the state was presented to representatives of 10 different political parties for inclusion in their party manifestos, in the city today. Senior leaders and manifesto committee members from BJD, BJP, INC, SP, BSP, CPI, CPI (M), AAP, Samata Kranti Dal, and Utkal Bharat participated and discussed the importance of addressing children’s rights. The multi-party consultation was organized by UNICEF, in collaboration with Kalinga Kusum Foundation (KKF) and Odisha Alliance for Child Rights (OACR).

The demands have emerged from four consultations-cum-workshops with children and young people in the state organized by KKF and OACR independently. Approximately 2000 children and young people from across the state, from schools and vulnerable communities, participated in developing the charter of demands.

Speaking at the consultation, Dr. Monika O. Nielsen, Chief, UNICEF Odisha said, “While children are a nation’s youngest citizens, investing in them by ensuring their rights determines our collective present and future. We know that only when all our children, girls,and boys, right from birth are healthy, educated, skilled and employed can they become productive citizens, taking the state and nation forward to greater heights. In the year when we celebrate 30 years of the adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, we look forward to commitments from political parties to ensure these rights reach all children equally.”

Mr. Dibya Chand Shukla, Managing Trustee of Kalinga Kusum Foundation delivered the welcome address followed by an introductory session. Mr. Dibya Chand Shukla and Mr. Ranjan Kumar Mohanty, Chairperson, OACR, then briefed about the process of consultation with children and shared the interesting stories and insights that emerged out of the children’s workshop in schools. Ms. Alka Gupta, Communication Specialist, and Mr. Laxminarayan Nanda, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF highlighted the significance of the multi-party dialogue on Ten point Children Charter of Demands. A very lively discussion followed on after Ms. Alka Gupta UNICEF read the ChildrenCharter of Demands.

Representatives and members of political parties shared their own ideas and suggested action points to make Odisha a child-friendly state. Dr. Lenin Mohanty of BJD appreciated UNICEF and Kalinga Kusum’s Child-Friendly Constituency (CFC) initiative in Khandapada constituency of Nayagarh District and suggested that schools across the state should incorporate the participatory model of involving children in the socio-political process. On other fronts, he suggested that every school and residential complex should be mandated to build a playground within its campus, especially in urban areas. Ms. Aishwarya Biswal of BJP appreciated the initiative of multiparty consultation and highlighted the need for nutritious food and free medicalcheck-up in schools. She also demanded drug de-addiction and suicide prevention centers across the state to deal with the rising trend of substance abuse and suicide among the youth in the country and inclusion of divyang children in the mainstream teaching-learning process. Mr. Nishikant Mishra from Congress too stressed on the education of Disabled children. On similar lines,Mr. Purna Chandra Mallick from BJPsuggested that every school should have a counseling center for children. Dr. Panchanan Kanungo of Congress stressed the need to have half yearly BMI Tests for children and to provide library facilities in all schools. He also suggested that all the functions and functionaries in rural schools should be placed under the three-tierPanchayat system. Mr. Abhaya Sahoo, an activist, demanded that all schools must have uniform education and facilities across the state. Similarly,Mr. Satya Prakash Nayak from Congress too stressed about more teachers and infrastructure in government-run schools. Mr. Naba Kishor Pradhan from Utkal Bharat asked for making Anganwadis at par with private play schools in urban areas. Ms. Kasturi Mohapatra from BJD and Nirmal Behera from Utkal Bharat asked the government, both at the center and state to allocate budget in accordance with the provisions required to fulfill the constitutional rights given to the children. Mr. Sudarshan Pradhan from Samajwadi Party demanded that the education system in the state should incorporate national and regional history in its curriculum at schools for the cultural development of a child.On similar lines, Mr. Madan Nanda from Samata Kranti Dala demanded that the medium of education should be in the mother tongue.

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