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Child Rights in India

In India, child rights are of utmost importance. India is one of the 193 countries that are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). These rights include;(i) promoting healthy lives (addressing survival, nutrition, health care services etc.), (ii) providing quality education, and (iii) protection against abuse, exploitation and violence (combating child labour, child trafficking and child sexual abuse). Let us delve into the significance of child rights in India, particularly focusing on the right to education and health.

What are child rights?

Child rights refer to the fundamental freedoms and entitlements that every child should enjoy, regardless of their background or circumstances. India, as a signatory to the UNCRC, is committed to safeguarding these rights. The UNCRC, adopted in 1989, is a globally recognized treaty outlining the rights of children. UNCRC child rights thus serve as a guiding framework for India’s policies and actions concerning child welfare. 

Right to Education: Empowering the Future

The right to education is a cornerstone of child rights. It ensures that every child, irrespective of their socio-economic status or background, has access to quality education. The UNCRC child rights emphasies this, recognising that education is essential for a child’s overall development.

In India, strides have been made to promote education for all children. The Right to Education Act, enacted in 2009, is a significant step in this direction. It mandates that children between the ages of 6 and 14 have the right to free and compulsory education. The government has also launched various schemes and initiatives to improve the quality of education and increase school enrollment rates. Ensuring that every child receives a meaningful and inclusive education remains a Government of India priority, aligning with the principles of UNCRC child rights.

Right to Health: Ensuring Well-being

The right to health is another crucial aspect of child rights in India. It encompasses access to healthcare services, proper nutrition, clean water, and sanitation. The UNCRC underscores the importance of prioritizing the health and well-being of children. India has made substantial progress in improving child healthcare. Initiatives like the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and the National Health Mission (NHM) aim to enhance child nutrition, immunization, and maternal health.

India’s Constitution emphasises public health and the State’s responsibility for healthcare. It also assigns a role to local governments, such as Panchayats and Municipalities, through Article 243G, in conjunction with the 11th Schedule, Entry 23. In essence, the Constitution not only mandates the government to prioritize public health but also delegates responsibilities to local governments, highlighting a decentralized approach to healthcare. This underscores the collaborative effort across different levels of governance in ensuring public health. These efforts align with the UNCRC’s vision of ensuring that children enjoy the highest attainable standard of health. Upholding the right to health for every child is an ongoing commitment that India is striving to fulfill. 

Ensuring a Better Future: UNCRC Child Rights in Action

While India continues its journey to uphold child rights, it’s essential to remember that progress takes time. The UNCRC recognizes the need for a gradual approach, urging countries to take steps within their means to improve children’s lives. India’s commitment to child rights is reflected in its efforts to create a supportive environment for children to thrive. The government, along with non-governmental organizations and civil society, collaborates to address the challenges and bridge gaps in child education and healthcare.

The role of NGOs in promoting the right to education and health

Bal Raksha Bharat (also known as Save the Children), is dedicated to improving education and healthcare in India. In the space of education, the organisation sets up Learning Centres and Mobile Learning Centres in areas where regular schools are hard to reach. They provide Education Kits with important learning materials to support children’s education. Bal Raksha Bharat also works closely with local communities to create Children Groups and School Management Committees, all striving to enhance education quality in their areas. They offer guidance to parents from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, stressing the importance of education for children. Additionally, they train teachers in child-friendly and interactive teaching methods to make learning more enjoyable.

In the field of health and nutrition, the organisation focuses on Child Survival, Newborn & Maternal Health, especially during early stages of life. They also provide health and nutrition assistance to children affected by emergencies and natural disasters. Their efforts extend to promoting WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) to ensure children have clean water, proper sanitation, and understand good hygiene practices. Bal Raksha Bharat collaborates closely with government authorities, schools, and Anganwadi centres at state and district levels to collectively improve the health and nutrition of children across the country. These initiatives reflect the organisation’s commitment to ensuring that every child in India can access their basic rights, including education and healthcare.

As we move forward, it’s crucial for all stakeholders – government, communities, and individuals – to work together in the spirit of the UNCRC to create a world where every child’s rights are respected and upheld.

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