“I am extremely happy to be here with all of you today for the ‘National Summit for Every Child in India’ being organized to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of ‘UN Convention on the Rights of the Child’.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a solemn promise made by countries of the world to protect the rights of children and to secure a bright future for them.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by countries across the world, including India.
Following the devastating aftermath of the World Wars and its psychological and physical impact on children of the world, the United Nations decided that children required special protection of their human rights.
As you are all aware, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted in 1989 and became the first legally binding international text to protect children’s rights.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is in fact, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.
Not surprisingly so.
Because we all believe our future must be secure and bright.
And we believe that children are our future.
The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and as a member of a family and community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development.
It recognizes the fundamental human dignity of all children and the urgency of ensuring their well-being and development.
It defines Child Rights as the minimum entitlements and freedoms that every child, a citizen below the age of 18 should enjoy.
These rights encompass freedom and civil rights, family environment, necessary healthcare and welfare, education, leisure and cultural activities and special protection measures.
The Convention outlines child rights in 54 articles under four broad categories: survival, development, protection, and participation.
I am glad to note that this Convention has been recognized as a milestone in international human rights legislation and has been instrumental in mobilizing world wide action for the realization of the rights and development of children across the globe.
My dear sisters and brothers,
As few days ago, on 14th of November we celebrated Children’s Day in our country. Pandit Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, whose birth anniversary is celebrated every year as Children’s Day had said, “Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future of the nation and the citizens of tomorrow”.
Our children are our future and in order to make this future a bright one, every child must have a childhood in all its fullness, surrounded by protective families and communities free from violence and with the opportunity to thrive.
India has been making consistent efforts to ensure that children grow up in a safe, caring and loving environment.
The under-5 mortality rate has fallen significantly from the 1990 level of 117 per 1000 live births to 39 in 2016.
More children have access to drinking water in 2019 as compared to 1992. The increase has been from 62% to 92%.
Access to education, especially of girls, has improved over the years from 61% in 1990 to near 100% today.
India ratified the Convention in 1992. After that at least 17 national laws and amendments have been passed by the Indian Parliament.
The National Policy for Children, 2013 was adopted to affirm the Government’s commitment to the rights based approach in addressing the continuing and emerging challenges in the situation of children.
Right to Education Act has increased primary school attendance rates for girls from 61 per cent to near universal in the same period.
Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 saw prevalence of child marriage declining from 47 per cent girls married before age 18 in 2005-2006, to 27 per cent in 2015-2016.
We parliamentarians in India have played an important role in ensuring that the views and interests of society are articulated by the government in policies which serve children.
When it comes to protecting and promoting the rights of children, both houses of the Parliament have played a critical role by holding the executive branch to account by scrutinizing its work, by allocating resources for children and by not only enacting child-related policies but by ensuring that all policies have the welfare of children as an important consideration. With novel programmes and approaches like Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao, child friendly schools, child budgets, the States and the Union government are ensuring that children have adequate protection and opportunities for growth and development.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child reminds us that we have a sacred responsibility towards the 472 million children in India.
This is certainly a time to celebrate. It is good to recall the great progress that has been made by India in the advancement of children’s rights to date.
But, it is also a moment to remind ourselves of the great challenges that need our further attention.
We need to take stock of the challenges that remain. We must ask ourselves: “What still needs to be done – and by whom?” and “How do we fast track results for children?”
Parliamentarians and legislators in the State are uniquely positioned to ensure that we create policies and programmes that ensure a bright future for our children and our country.
I urge you to keep the welfare of the children of your constituencies as an overriding priority in your development efforts.
A positive start has indeed been made by the Right to Education Act 2009. But it is not sufficient to just provide “any education”. We must have “quality education”. We must have “affordable, relevant education”. We must have “education that empowers” children with the competencies of the 21st century.
We must have inclusive education by placing special focus on securing education to the more vulnerable differently abled children. UNESCO estimates that among five year olds with disabilities, three-fourths do not go to any educational institution nor do one fourth of the differently abled children in the age group of 5-19 years.
Another dimension of good education is the children’s right to “learn and use the language and customs of their families, whether these are shared by the majority of people in the country or not” as the Article 30 of the Convention specifies. We should focus on the language of the home. We should not only enable children to learn in mother language or the language they wish to learn but also enable them to learn as many languages as they wish to without neglecting or ignoring the mother language.
The next area of focus must be nutrition. It is appalling that at all India level, 21% of children under age five years are wasted and 36% of children under age five years are underweight.
Good health is the absolute precondition to a fulfilling life. I am happy that government has taken the initiative to address this concern through the POSHAN Abhiyan.
On this momentous occasion, we must recommit ourselves with renewed determination to the principles of CRC.
I am glad that UNICEF in India is working with Government at all levels to tackle the persistent challenges to child rights.
I appreciate the efforts being made by UNICEF to catalyze actions in different parts of the country to improve children’s lives.
I am also happy that the Parliamentary group on children convened by Vandana Chavan ji has taken this initiative today to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Child Rights Convention.
Protecting, respecting and fulfilling children’s rights is made possible when we can educate families, government institutions and organisations and provide the right support to overcome challenges.
The UN sustainable development goals note that children are ‘critical agents of change and will find in the new goals a platform to channel their infinite capacities for activism into the creation of a better world’.
We must empower and equip our children to be the change agents and the transformational leaders of the future.
I am extremely happy that 14,000 children have participated in the Stamp Design Competition jointly conducted by the Department of Posts and UNICEF. I saw some of the designs on display today and I was truly amazed at the creative expression of our young children. I congratulate the winners of the competition as well as all the children who participated in it.
We should continue to encourage young children to excel in creative pursuits like this. Innovation and imagination must be proactively encouraged.
Art and Science must be given equal weight in our curriculum.
The scientific temper and artistic sensibility must go hand in hand.
We must give each child a head start in life through good early childhood care and education.
To neglect children is to neglect our country’s and planet’s well being.
To not take action in time is to imperil our own future.
We cannot afford to have any more missed opportunities.
Let me conclude by urging each one of us to take a solemn resolve today as lawmakers and citizens that we will continue our crusade to evolve and implement meaningful child-centred policies and programmes.
We have to shape our tomorrow “today”.
We have to insure our future through our healthy, energetic, inquisitive children.