Our children face South Asian parliamentarians in Dhaka
The platform has been formed keeping in mind new and stronger commitments for children
Children in South Asia need more than just promises.
They need to be prioritised by politicians who represent the region populated by more than a billion people.
The children here have inherited proud history, rich cultures, diverse languages but also a common condition -- poverty and inequality in access to basic services.
Democracy is relatively young in the eight South Asian states -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Many of these countries have recently been fraught by natural disasters, violence and even war. Amid all adversities, some are emerging as new powerhouses of economy.
Some have excelled in education and others successfully measure the growth of their people by their happiness.
They all have lessons to share. Most urgently, with each other.
So, in an event hosted by UNICEF in Dhaka, 28 MPs from all South Asian countries came together for the summit – South Asia Parliamentarian Platform for Children.
They agreed to invest more in children, both as parents who devote more time in their children’s early development and as lawmakers, who make sure that governments design national budgets keeping in mind the developmental needs of children.
“Parliamentarians can play an important role in ensuring sufficient funding and allocation of resources for the protection of the rights of children in the National Budget," - Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Speaker of Bangladesh Parliament
The platform agreed that after securing increased budget allocation for children, governments must make sure the funds are utilised properly.
From May 2-3, the MPs met to share their stories on problems and progress over issues such as child poverty, child marriage, child labour, child mortality, access to quality education and nutrition and much more.
On the concluding day, the MPs met and spoke to 300 Bangladeshi children, who grilled them with questions and demands for improvement. The session at Hotel Sonargaon was chaired by Bangladesh Deputy Speaker Fazle Rabbi Miah.
The politicians agreed with the school-going children that significant progress was yet to be made for the youths of South Asia.
The region is home to one fourth of the world’s population, but its share of global income is just 4 per cent, said Jean Gough, Regional Director of UNICEF South Asia.
“This fact underlines one of the biggest challenges for South Asia’s progress on the social and economic front: namely the lack of investment in its largest asset, its Human Capital – and especially the young within the society,” she said.
“Nearly 300 million children are what we call multi-dimensionally poor in South Asia,” she added.
The meetings in Dhaka formed the platforms for new and stronger commitments. It was marked by the unveiling of a digital space created by UNICEF to make sure politicians from South Asia can connect and share policy ideas on children.
It was the second time the parliamentarians gathered to form their platform, followed by last year’s gathering in Kathmandu.
The honourable delegates from Sri Lanka have proposed to host their third meeting due to take place next year.