Children take on the role of Torch Bearer of change in Valsad district
By Gurinder GulatiGujarat: “Children fall sick frequently and many do not go to the school. We have formed a group of Child Reporters, who are working with the community as well as the Village Panchayat to ensure that all babies of our village are fully immunized and every child is in school, said Khurkuti, a Class XII student, who has donned the hat of a child reporter in Kaprada village of Valsad district.
UNICEF has established a network of “Child Reporters” in ten village of Valsad district. These child reporters have been trained in rights of children. The main objective of this initiative to equip children with skills to identify child-related issues in their village and draw the attention of civil society as well as parents to improve the lives of children. These child reporters’ networks are providing an opportunity to the children to express themselves freely and how they see the development in their village with their own eyes.
Child reporters of all the ten villages were involved in a mapping exercise of issues concerning children. Whereas children of Girnara village identified “quality of drinking water” as the main issue, child reporters of Virakshetra came up with children suffering from diarrhoea as the main problem in their village. Government functionaries, civil society organizations, such as Health Worker, Village WATSAN Committee or Village Education Committee, who can help in resolving these issues were also identified in the micro plans prepared by the children. “With the training provided by UNICEF, we have learnt to analyze the situation of children. We will now take up these issues with concerned authorities as also create awareness among the community to take better care of children”, said Mayur, one of the child reporters from Dabkhal village. The microplans prepared by children were then presented to the District Development Officer and Panchayat Members, who not only appreciated the initiative taken by child reporters but assured them all the help in resolving these problems.
“Bal Kendras” (Child Resource Centres) have also been set up in these villages, where children get together and exchange notes about issues to be taken up and chalk out a plan to sensitize the community through street plays or personal dialogue with the families/community.
UNICEF has been working in Valsad district to bring about behaviour change at family level on n key issues concerning children, such as immunization, growth monitoring, all children particularly girls are attending school, all members of the family wash their hands with soap and all young people are aware about prevention of HIV/AIDS, etc. It is proposed to expand the concept of child reporters’ network to all the villages of Valsad in a phased manner. This will not only help in improving the situation of children in the villages, but also give the children their right to participation by providing them with a forum to express themselves.