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Saturday, May 09, 2009

How to make the children count in Indian elections??

As I write this piece, India is in the middle of an election season. India’s electorate is 700 million people (almost double the entire population of the United States of America) and due to the magnitude of electorate and security concerns, our election season lasts for about a month.

In our elections, children’s issues have no say. Disproportionate spending (in relation to the gross domestic product or GDP) compared to the size of the number of children of India (Indian children under the age of 18 constitute 41% of the population) suggests that Indian leadership has no desire to address children’s issues.

Children need our attention because they are defenseless. Recently I also read a profound statement on the status of India’s children (to describe why they need our attention) published in the Hindu newspaper on May 3rd, 2009 which states the following: “If you are a child below the age of three, there is a 50 per cent chance that you are malnourished …If you survive this age, and somehow get into school there is a 30 per cent chance that you will drop out of school — the probability is even higher if you are a girl or a child with disability. There is a 41 per cent chance that you will be sexually abused or molested, most probably by a close family member of a friend. Again, the chances are higher if you are a girl.”

If these above stated numbers are to be believed, half of the future generation of India is growing to be less competitive – In other words it could affect our future economy directly. So, why doesn’t our leaders care? Because children don’t hurt them where it hurts them the most – they don’t have a vote to decide their fate.

An educated and rationale civil society cannot afford to ignore our politicians not recognizing the importance of our children to this country’s future. We must hold our politicians accountable on children’s issues but the question is how? I strongly feel that this is where the NGO’s that are working with children must mobilize grass root support of parents that stand up for their own children’s issues. Educate, empower and entrust the families about standing up for their children. NGO’s or children (through children’s parliaments) themselves can do very little on their own, but with the support of parents/ families, things can be changed dramatically.

Even if 1% of electorate of a constituency stands to endorse a candidate that supports children’s issues, things will change dramatically. For this, like-minded NGO’s need to network creatively and build partnerships to optimize the efforts.

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