Children raise their concerns through manifesto before Assam elections


    Children raise their concerns through manifesto before Assam elections

    As the preparations for the upcoming 2021 Assembly elections in Assam are afoot, 4000 kids in Assam have come up with a ‘children’s manifesto’ to direct the gaze of the political parties and their leaders towards their concerns.

    This young demographic consisting mostly of those who can not vote yet has listed a ten-point charter of demands, reports The Indian Express.

    “My village is located near a hill, which has no network. We had to walk 4-5 km every day just to get the network to download our notes,” said Naba Kumar Bhakat, a class 12 student from the Kokrajhar district.

    “Lockdown has been very tough on everyone but especially students because we lost out on studies,” he added.

    This demand for better online education has come up especially in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown, which led to a closure of schools and made apparent the digital divide acting as a hindrance for many in these times. They hope that the elected representatives will heed their charter and take action based on their demands.

    Some of their other demands and concerns are related to better teaching and medical facilities in rural areas along with infrastructure requirements like concrete bridges and libraries.

    The booklet, which has been produced by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Pratyek NGO states in its introduction: “Policies and programmes are designed by adults who do not understand a child’s perspective but think that ‘adults know best.’ Whereas we accept their wisdom, we also believe that when a voice finds no representation in the process, it leaves many things unaddressed and does not solve problems.”

    “There is a big gap in what we need and what a policy delivers,” it adds.

    This ten-point charter of demands is compiled from a state-wide survey of 4000 children and includes such concerns as access to affordable healthcare and nutritious food, protection from violence in all forms, and no discrimination based on class, caste, gender, religion.

    “For years, residents near our village have suffered because of a lack of a bridge. It’s not always easy to navigate the river by boat, especially during medical emergencies,” Kuldeep Narayan Bora, a class 10 student from river island Majuli, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

    Assam is beset with floods and soil erosion every year, which affects large swathes of its population. “Apart from a bridge, I wish the government would scientifically look into the problem of erosion,” he said.

    The UNICEF brought out a similar manifesto before the Lok Sabha Elections in 2019 but the one published this year is more focused on the rights of children in the backdrop of the pandemic.

    Dr Madhulika Jonathan, Chief of UNICEF Assam was reported as saying, “The global pandemic has laid bare deep inequalities in our societies that have left some children far more at risk than others. There are millions still missing out on essential healthcare, a large percentage were cut off from education due to the digital divide, and a large proportion were left without protection simply because they were born into poverty or because of their ethnicity, race, gender.”

    The manifesto will soon be shared with the current Assam government’s leaders including the Chief Minister and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. It will be shared with other major political parties too to make them give space to these demands in their manifestos before the elections.

    Putting into focus the demands of the children, this manifesto also provides a glimpse into their mindset and thought processes, as they come from different socio-economic backgrounds.

    “While the 12.7 million children of the state do not have the right to vote, their concerns matter and they should be heard by those running for office,” says the introduction. The survey carried out for the booklet focused on two target age groups, those between the age of 8-12 years and those between 12-21 years of age. It tried to focus on vulnerable sections like child labourers, children of tea plantation workers, disabled children, and those affected by the National Register of Citizens.

    According to Census 2011, 41 per cent of the people are below 18 years of age in Assam and are therefore not eligible for voting.

    (the headline, this story has not been published by Important India News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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