Transformation is possible
How a ward in Birgunj is making good on its promise to protect the rights of every child
Birgunj, Nepal: “Child marriage used to be very common here,” says Pradeep Shah. “It was only with a lot of campaigning and awareness programmes that we have been able to reduce the number of cases. But we need to do more if we want to make sure the practice is eliminated completely.”
Pradeep is the president of the child club network and one of the members of the Child-Friendly Local Governance (CFLG) committee in Birgunj’s Bagahi ward, which has been working to address issues of child rights violation in the area.
To accelerate progress on this front, the ward has taken some notable steps. For instance, newly-elected local representatives and other concerned authorities have been trained, with technical support from UNICEF, to maximize their office’s reach to protect and promote children’s rights in their plans, policies and codes of conduct. And members of child clubs have also been oriented to help young people better internalize and advocate for their rights.
It was following these trainings that the CFLG committee was formed, comprising both ward representatives and child club members.
In this way, children and local leaders have joined hands to plan different activities and interventions to push for child-friendly local governance in the ward, with a specific focus on disadvantaged communities.
Activities include door-to-door campaigns where committee members visit each household to remind families to send children to school, deliver in health facilities, complete the minimum ante-natal and post-natal checkups, vaccinate their children, register births and ensure that they do not marry their children off at an early age or force them to work, among other valuable messages.
A brochure capturing these messages was also developed by the Birgunj Metropolitan City and is distributed to community members during these household visits to boost their understanding of child rights.
Results are already visible: more than 90 per cent of children now attend school regularly and birth registration has reached 95 per cent. All households have access to drinking water, the ward has been declared open-defecation free and is in the process of attaining total sanitation coverage. And as a sign of its growing commitment to child rights, the present financial year, the ward has allocated a total of NPR 250,000 out of its budget for addressing issues that affect children.
“It’s all coming together, thanks to the efforts of the government, community, especially the children,” says Lalan Raut Kurmi, the ward’s CFLG focal person.