UNICEF seeks support of Legislators of Gujarat State Assembly
It was a unique opportunity, when the Hon’ble Speaker of the newly constituted Gujarat Legislative Assembly invited UNICEF to apprise Members of the House with the situation of children in the state and the role that MLAs can play in accelerating the achievement of the MDGs.
Gujarat went to polls in November-December 2007 and a new Legislative Assembly has been constituted. The MLAs come from different walks of life and are not familiar with critical issues of children as well as MDGs. Therefore, a dialogue was established with the Hon’ble Speaker, who was earlier the Minister for Health and a good ally on survival and development issues of children, to include this as part of the induction of the new Legislative Assembly. On 1st March, Dr Yogendra Mathur, State Representative, UNICEF Gujarat addressed the House, on the Rights of Children and need to accelerate the attainment of MDGs in the state.
While commending the impressive economic, industrial and infrastructure growth in the State, Dr Mathur apprised the MLAs on the slow progress in the social sector front, e.g., the stagnant IMR, high levels of child malnutrition, low learning levels among children of elementary level, and the need for accelerating universalization of sanitation at household level.
Attention of MLAs was also drawn to the wide gap that existed between rural and urban population and the actions needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals as well as the goals outlined in the 11th Five Year plan. A roadmap about the role of the MLAs in the House in policy formulation, budget allocation and its utilization and in their respective constituencies in monitoring implementation of various flagship programmes was laid out as part of their orientation.
In the inter-active session, that followed Dr Mathur’s presentation, many MLAs got up and appreciated UNICEF’s initiative to acquaint them with the actual situation on the ground in regard to the children in the State and assured their full support. One of the MLAs from Mehsana district remarked “So far we did not believe the claim by various agencies that there was adverse sex ratio in my district. But now, after your presentation, I have realized that the situation is actually grim and will definitely do something to improve the situation in my constituency” MLAs expressed their desire of continued association with UNICEF, enabling them to play a constructive role in improving the state of children in Gujarat.
In the concluding remarks, Hon’ble Speaker thanked UNICEF for their valuable inputs and support in sensitizing the MLAs and expressed his desire to set up a “Knowledge Centre on children” in the library of the Legislative Assembly with UNICEF help. This Centre will be a repository of all the literature/publications like State of the World’s Children Report, research papers/studies on children.
In view of the renewed focus of UNICEF’s new Country Programme on strengthening advocacy and forging partnerships with different stakeholders, this is a very good opportunity to engage with the political leadership in the state to build further on this initiative to influence State’s policies related to survival and development of children and accelerate the achievement of Millennium Development Goals as well.