A consolidated report on the situation of vulnerable and excluded children from Western India comprising four states (Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Goa and Gujarat) was presented at the 5th Regional Conference on ‘Children in Difficult Circumstances’ organised by Plan India. Experts from various state institutes, UN bodies and Civil Society Organisations participated in the discussion.
The findings of the western regional consultation will be part of the National Conference on Children in Difficult Circumstances in November 2016 in New Delhi. The conference will provide a unique opportunity to child rights organisations, development practitioners, researchers and policy makers across India to deliberate on issues relating to the numerous problems faced by children and the commitments via practices, programmes, policies and investment required to address these. Similar consultations were conducted in 4 other regions across India. This included Southern regional conference which was conducted at Vijayawada, Northern at Lucknow, Eastern at Kolkata and Northeastern conference at Guwahati.
Children in difficult circumstances comprise of children living on the streets and working, children affected by HIV/AIDS, victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, children of female sex workers and child labourers. Millions of children continue to be denied their basic rights and entitlements such as food, shelter, education, medical care, protection and security owing to their situation.
As per current statistics, 23 million children below the age of six years are malnourished (ICDS Status Report), 19 million children are living and working on the urban streets of India (UNHCHR Report) and 4.3 million children remain still employed as child labourers (2011 Census of India).
Speaking on the occasion Pradeep Narayanan, Director, Programme Strategy and Policy, Plan India said, “The consultation is an attempt to identify existing gaps in policies and programmes and recommend a collective call for action to address these issues for bringing positive impact on children’s life. As a leading national organisation on child rights, Plan India attempts to highlight and ensure access to the rights and entitlements of children who face multiple deprivation and vulnerabilities owing to their circumstances.”
The consultation was organised by Plan India, a leading NGO working on child development in partnership with Academy of Gandhian Studies (AGS). Distinguished delegates included Mr. Nagargoje, IAS, Commissioner of Women and Child Development, Government of Maharashtra, Pradeep Narayanan, Director, Programme Strategy and Policy, Plan India, Dr GRS Rao, Chairman, Academy of Gandhian Studies and Gopala Krishna Murthy, Member Secretary, Academy of Gandhian Studies and Ms Vaidyanathan Krishna Murthy, Samhita Social Ventures.
Gopala Krishna Murthy, Member Secretary of Academy of Gandhian Studies said, “This workshop is a platform to bring together policy makers, planners and implementers from both government as well as civil society groups to share their experiences of various programmes preventing child marriage, child labour, missing and runaway children.”
The consultation also reviewed the existing best practices, effectiveness of government policies, legislation and programmes in addressing the rights and entitlements of the most vulnerable children. The participants discussed about multiple causes and situations leading to increased vulnerabilities and denial of rights to children and attempted to find possible solutions to these problems.
Participants acknowledged that promoting knowledge management and collaborative processes, including research are important drivers in influencing policies, practices and investment to improve the lives of children in difficult circumstances.