On India’s Childrens Day, Millions Left Behind
Today is Children’s Day in India; yet for 25 million Indian children, there is no cause for celebration. Amidst their country’s growing prosperity, these 25 million children live without parents, in orphanages or on the streets where they are vulnerable to abuse, child labor, trafficking, malnutrition and disease. For these young people, Children’s Day is simply another day to survive.
Close to four million more children are joining their ranks each year, and India is home to the world’s largest population of AIDS orphans, at approximately two million. According to UNICEF, one of every three of the world’s malnourished children lives in India, and about 50% of childhood deaths in the country are attributed to malnutrition or starvation. Save The Children found that more than 400,000 children each year die within the first 24 hours of life in India.
While the rest of the world celebrates United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) from November 14-21, these children have lost their rights and indeed, even their voices. UNICEF defines a child as “invisible” when he lacks an environment that protects him from violence, abuse and exploitation; goes without basic necessities such as adequate food, health care and schooling; and is neglected by the state.
The UNCRC is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations, and the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not.
However, twenty years later, India has fallen far short of meeting the rights of these children. So, what can you do to help ensure their rights, and prevent more children from falling through the cracks?
- You can sign a petition for the United States to ratify the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. The U.S. and Somalia are the only two countries in the world who have failed to do so.
UNICEF has some other great resources for ways to make a difference:
- If you are a parent, teacher, social worker or other professional working with children, raise awareness of the Convention on the Rights of the Child among children.
- If you are a member or employee of an organization working for children’s rights, raise awareness of the Convention and its Optional Protocols, research and document governmental actions and policies and involve communities in promoting and protecting children’s rights.
- If you are a member of the media, promote knowledge and understanding of children’s rights and provide a forum for children’s participation in society.
- If you are a parliamentarian, ensure that all existing and new legislation and judicial practice is compatible with your country’s international obligations, monitor governments’ actions, policies and budgets and involve the community—including children—in relevant decisionmaking.
You may also be interested in reading this beautiful essay from an Indian writer (and Save The Children photographer), who recounts how when growing up, Children’s Day meant sweets and fun – and how only much later, did she realize the struggles that many other children faced simply to survive.
Together, we can all get involved to make sure that all children have their needs met – and to give them that most basic of all things that each one deserves: a childhood.
Posted on November 14, 2009, in asia, children, global, India, journalism, news, poverty and tagged children, children's day, convention on the rights of the child, India, orphans, poverty, shelley seale, united nations. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.