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Children’s Parliament held in Central Hall, Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly shows the way

© UNICEF/ 2008
Nisha the member of Children’s Parliament from Varanasi speaks of how girls are tormented and harassed.

Kulsum Mustafa

Lucknow, November 2008: “This parliament is more fruitful than the bigger parliament sessions. The demand for a state children’s commission must be immediately conceded to as it will give a real voice to children”, a sentiment expressed by veteran legislator Om Prakash Singh at the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly on November 20 - Universal Child Rights Day. 

Addressing the House, Speaker of the State Assembly Sukdev Rajbhar acknowledged that some very relevant issues had been touched upon in the Children's Parliament which would be taken up at a higher decision-making level by the government. “I fully support the idea of State Children’s Commission which must be set up” he said.

The issues ranged from poor health facilities, education and civic amenities in rural areas to issues of child prostitution, child sexual abuse, gender, caste discrimination, police high-handedness on working children and more.

The UP State Legislative Assembly has shown the way by inviting 60 under privileged children from different parts of the state to hold a Children's Parliament in the Central Hall of Parliament. The proceedings were recorded by the Assembly Secretariat and referred to for action to different legislative committees. Among those also present were Parlimentary Affairs Minister Lalji Verma and Opposition Legislator Lalji Tandon … a clear pointer to the importance accorded to this event.

The Central Hall wore the look of a mini assembly. There were marshals, legislative reporters, galleries for media and public. But instead of one there were two speakers - Narendra representing the boys and Reena, the girls.

Children First a consortium of 40 odd NGOs of UP working for child rights were the organizers of this novel initiative supported by UNICEF and Action Aid. Exercising their right to be heard the child ‘legislators’ presented their problems before the House. The issues ranged from poor health facilities, education and civic amenities in rural areas to issues of child prostitution, child sexual abuse, gender, caste discrimination, police high-handedness on working children and more.

Triveni, a street child from Varanasi, spoke of the harassment faced by kids working on railway stations and narrated heart rending tales of the suffering they go through due to lack of medicine, food and homes.

© UNICEF/ 2008
Child friendly speaker S. Rajbhar announces that Children’s parliament will be an on going process and bridge between children and the democratic process in the state.

Dhirender, from Lakhimpur Kheri, expressed a deep desire for handicapped children to study and go to normal schools where they are at present denied admission.
 
Calling for “strengthening children’s power as they are the foundation of the country”; Sukhdev Rajbhar said that the children have expressed some bitter facts of life and it is for adults to address these to create a better world.  “The Convention on the Rights of the Child which was drawn up 19 years ago on 20 November lists the right of every child to be heard. The children's parliament was an effort in this direction.” he added with an assurance that the event will be an annual feature every 20 November.
  
“These children will surely give a new direction to the state. Initiated into the democratic process at an early age they will do full justice when they take on the mantle of the state,” said the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Sri Lal Verma.

The concluding session of the Children's Parliament was organized at the City Montessori School auditorium at Gomti Nagar. In all over 200 children visited the state capital and voiced their grievances through a forum provided by the UP's Children's Parliament.

“This was no mock Parliament. The children spoke and adults listened. There was proper documentation of the whole proceedings and issues referred to special committees for consideration. If only we elders lend the children our ears and let them speak out fearlessly and freely this world will be a much safer and peaceful place to live in.” said UNICEF Lucknow Communication Specialist, Augustine Veliath.

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