“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future”. This statement of Late American President Mr. John F. Kennedy clearly suggests children being the most important resources of the future requiring proper attention, care and investment in terms of health, nutrition, education, security and overall growth. In a nutshell, there is a need of investment for an all-round development and growth of children if they are to be developed as true resources. Therefore, a need was felt by the policy makers at international level to recognise certain rights of the children. The discussion in this direction was initiated way back in 1959 when United Nations General Assembly adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child.
In November 1989, the United Nations Convention on the rights of the Child (UNCRC) adopted by the General Assembly came to be known as the primary international instrument to address the rights of the world’s children (defined as people under the age of 18). The convention was unique as it spoke of human rights of children and need of their special care. It categorised children’s rights into four groups as:
(a) Survival right
(b) Protection rights
(c) Development rights
(d) Participation rights.
These four categories of child rights include health, education, recreation, security and all those issues that are required for a standard life of the children. UNCRC also spoke on role of the nations in facilitating smooth access of the children to these rights. Most of the nations including India have taken up UNCRC in their own way for ensuring a better status of the children. UNCRC still continues to be the standard guidelines on child rights at international as well as national levels. The month of November, 2014 witnessed completion of 25 years of the adoption of UNCRC. A big period indeed to show results! With this milestone achieved, let’s have a look at the overall conditions of children of our country.
We may begin our discussion with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were to be achieved at international level by all the signatory countries including India. The second MDG i.e. ‘Universalisation of primary education’ and the fourth one i.e. ‘reduction in child mortality’ are directly related to children. According to a study report students’ retention rate in the primary schools in India was just 82.38% in the year 2013-14. This implies that the remaining 17.62% primary school children cannot complete their primary education in India let alone secondary and higher education. According to a UNICEF report, the infant mortality rate of our country was 42 (on per 1000 live births) in the year 2012. The figures clearly show that we have a long way to achieve the goals of universalisation of primary education and reduction in child mortality. As per Census 2011, country’s child sex ratio (in 6-14 years age group) is 914. This suggests a gap of 86 girls on every 1000 boys. The difference in the figures is an outcome of centuries’ old preference for male children and recently emerged inhuman practice of female foeticide. Skewed sex ratio is a very alarming situation for any developing country as it will create threats for the very survival of humanity.
Every human aspect cannot be presented in terms of figures. That’s why; we may also discuss the issue in qualitative terms. Let’s begin with the children with disabilities. We are yet to have an inclusive environment to integrate these children in the mainstream of society. Schools are reluctant to admit such children. Dearth of disability-friendly infrastructure and society’s apathy are the prime factors behind exclusion of the children with disabilities from mainstream of society. Child labour, child sexual abuse, ‘corporal punishment’, child marriage, child trafficking, abandoning of girl/illegitimate child, discrimination with girl child, cumbersome education system etc. are such areas wherein we are yet to achieve the desired results despite continuous efforts by government and voluntary sectors. There is a need of better and stricter enforcement of laws preventing pre-natal sex determination test and female foeticide. Our society requires an attitudinal change for minimising discrimination with the girl children. Widespread and consistent mass awareness campaigns are required in this domain. Union government’s recently launched ‘Beti Bachao,Beti Padhao’ campaign is an excellent example of mass awareness campaign aiming at attitudinal change in the society towards girl child. Care and protection of orphan and destitute children, rescue and rehabilitation of child labourers, children into conflict with law and children into addiction are some other issues requiring attention of the policy makers and different stakeholders.
There are innumerable such issues that need an accelerated pace ,stronger political will and concerted efforts if we genuinely wish to make our society a ‘child-friendly’ society. Formulation of National Policy for Children,2013 is a milestone in the direction of efforts to ensure an all-round development and protection of the our children. There are other endeavours like CHILDLINE, a 24 hours toll-free emergency helpline for the care and protection of children in need, Integrated Children Protection Scheme (ICPS) and Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). There are various government-civil society partnership endeavours striving towards providing development, care and protection of the children. Still, the fact remains the fact that children of our country need a better environment offering rights to survival, protection, development and participation to our children. The task is not only government or voluntary sector’s responsibility. Media, corporate houses, religious bodies, educational institutions, common citizens; all are required to contribute in the direction of developing children as tomorrow’s valuable resources.
Let’s envisage a society wherein every child is safe and protected, wherein there in no shameful incidence like Nithari, wherein all unborn daughters are born and live a life of dignity and wherein there is not a single child labourer struggling for a livelihood. These are the dreams for a ‘child-friendly’ society but the dreams need efforts by all the sections of the society to come true!
Written By - Hena Naqvi, State Program Manager, Communication and Research’, with State Society for ultra Poor and Social Welfare (brand name-SAKSHAM), Patna, Department of Social Welfare, Government of Bihar. E-mail: email@example.com,
 Elementary Education in India, Progress towards UEE, National University of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi
 Number of females per thousand males