As we celebrate seven decades of independence, we must give all our children the gift of real freedom – from prejudice, barriers, discrimination, enabling them to learn, grow and realise their full potential
Children’s stories tug at your heartstrings like no other; especially stories of children who have defied all odds to emerge winners and triggered change for entire communities. We have witnessed, experienced, read stories of many children from across the country, fighting their way out of set boundaries and re-defining freedom for themselves.
For Kavita, living in a slum in an impoverished colony of migrant workers in Delhi, defying gender stereotypes to play cricket and even build an entire team of girls from her community, is freedom. For 12-year-old Jyoti and 11-year-old Sherbano residing in Gujarat, freedom entails singing songs and using public speaking to advocate girl child education in villages. For Naveen, the journey from being a child labour in the small village of Madanapalli in Chittoor to inventing a national prize-winning eco-friendly cooking alternative defines his passage to freedom. For Sanjeev, living in Ahmedpur village in Bihar, leading a children’s group to ensure access and quality education to all children in his village is what freedom means.
What binds these stories is the fact that each of these children was given opportunities to chase their dreams, breaking barriers that hindered them. For some it meant greater mobility and exposure despite restrictive gender norms, for others it was access to education to hone their skills. These children were provided with an enabling space to facilitate their empowerment.
However, as we move into the 71st year of being independent, we need to work towards making these stories not something out of the ordinary, but a norm across. We need to collectively work towards an India where millions of children like them aren’t deprived of rights as basic as education, nutrition and development.
Working on ground, for close to four decades, we have witnessed transformational change in children when they are encouraged and provided with the right space where they can realise their full potential. In fact, it is important to see how consistent engagement with all stakeholders involved—parents, communities and local authorities—is the key to aid this sustained change. Working with our partners on ground, we know it is essential to adopt a multi-pronged approach wherein we are encouraging children to voice their opinions, mobilising communities to change their attitudes and engaging with authorities and policymakers to ensure implementation of children’s schemes on ground.
Giving our children an encouraging environment, ensuring access to schooling, enabling them to finish their education and giving ample opportunities will lead them to shine, to break conventions, to rise up to unspoken heights. Every space that a child inhabits –be it his or her home, or school or any other institution—must provide this enabling atmosphere. The policy for children in India, must aid this continuum of change.
Our Prime Minister has talked about this Independence Day being celebrated as “Salkalp Parv”, a day that we must dedicate to aiming for a new India and work towards removing the barriers that create hindrance on our path to realising our goals. Let us all hope that this resolve to transform India in the next five years also holds true for the millions of children who deserve to be free, independent, with their basic rights upheld at every stage of their life.
The article is a part of the joint initiative by CRY and Down To Earth to present stories of underprivileged and marginalised children who have realised their true potential despite adversities
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