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Media Festival In Assam Focuses on Children’s Issues

Nipurn Gupta

TEZPUR, Assam India, 20 April 2010 –   “I lost my child who only nine months old. I was married at a very early age and became a teenage mother. When my child had diarrhoea, I did not know how to take care and the consequences were fatal,” said an emotional Patricia Mukhim.

Padmashree awardee and Editor of The Shillong Times, Patricia Mukhim was speaking at the inaugural three-day media festival `Vistas 2010,’ organised by the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Tezpur University, Assam.

Focusing on `The Child and The Media’

 “Vistas 2010 is an important and different festival as it is focused on a very pertinent theme ‘ The Child and the Media.’’ informs Abhijit Bora, Head of the Mass Communication and Journalism department at Tezpur University.   

“It was the students who came up with the theme Last year few students and faculty had participated in the `Media for Child Rights’ workshops organised jointly by Gauhati University and UNICEF Assam” adds Bora.

“They returned charged and committed to carry forward the discourse on child rights. `Vistas’ provided a good platform. The department was happy to have UNICEF’s support and guidance.”    

Lauding the initiative, Vice Chancellor, Tezpur University, Prof. Mihir Kanti Chaudhuri, appealed to the attended gathering of media professionals, students and faculty to take up a proactive role in giving voice to children’s issues.

The inaugural session was followed by a stimulating panel discussion on the child rights issues, specially in context of Northeast India.

The panel comprised of eminent journalists, child rights activists and academics with the audience being students and scribes.

Giving examples from media reporting on children’s issues, journalist Samudra Gupta  Kashyap stressed “The children are not criminals but victims of a situation. They need care and protection.”

“The most important thing is to respect the child as an individual who has the right to live with dignity,” said Fr Lukose. Member Juvenile Justice Board, Kamrup district.
Responding to question about media influence on children, Prabir Bose said, “Children have a right to access the media. Media houses should have policies on what content they provide to children.”

Understanding the Rights Perspective

The second day had a more indepth session on child rights for smaller group of media students and faculty. Prabir Bose elaborated on children’s rights in the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and national laws and flagship programmes of the Government of India.

Veteran journalist Samudra Gupta Kashyap explained the ethical guidelines on reporting on children. “As budding journalists, this is extremely useful for us,” remarked a student from Shillong. 

Creative Competition facilitate greater engagement with issues

Equipped with the essentials on the issue of child rights, media student teams from Gauwhati University, EFL University, Shillong, Cotton College Guwahati, and the hosts Tezpur University joined in the competitive section of the festival.

Over the two days, the teams developed logos, jingles, photo-stories, advertisements, short films and on different aspects related to children’s right to survival, development, protection and participation.

 ‘Clapsticks’, the short-film making competition was challenging given the preparation time of one-day. Shivjyoti, Guwahati University, was happy with his consolation prize.

“We went to a nearby construction side and spotted three child labourers;  we made a film around that.  Where is their Right to Education and Childhood?” he came back questioning.

“The `Visual Voice’ contest was very interesting - we had to create a story on child marriage using seven pictures,” shared a participant from Cotton College, Guwahati.  The process made us think more deeply about the issue of child marriage.

The advertisement contest focused on Birth Registration, the photography on Right to Education and logo-making on children’s right to express their views.

The host team picked up the prize for their jingle on hand washing which was interestingly woven around a conversation between two village women, discussing the benefits of hand washing. The jingle can be used during the Global Handwashing day, remarked one of the judges.

The quiz conducted by Abhra Das, well known quiz master from Assam was perhaps the most popular event. “There is so much we need to know about child rights, policies and programmes, confessed a participant.   

Committing to a sustained discourse 

As a way forward, the participating institutions decided to incorporate ‘reporting on children’ as a specialized beat in their course curriculum.  They also committed to undertaking some focused activities to build awareness on children’s issues.

“NEWS Café, our weekly lab journal will now have a special section on children’s issues,’ stated P. Anbarasn, faculty in charge of the journal.  ”This would help the budding journalists from this institution take up child right issue more seriously in their career.”

The festival culminated with a beautiful cultural evening where children reminded people of their rights in their own voices, with a touching rendition of ‘We are the world, We are the Children.’ 

With inputs from Vistas2010 team

 

 

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