Guwahati, March 16: Children across the world have realized it’s now or never.
As youth worldwide skip schools Friday in protest to demand action on climate change, a group of girls in the flood-prone Indian state of Assam has approached politicians to include concerns such as flood-resilient infrastructure in election manifestos for the 2019 general elections.
Over 500 children of the age group 14 to 19 years were consulted to work out a ‘Children’s Agenda’ focusing on health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene and education and protection of children.
The agenda was prepared under the guidance of UNICEF, Assam and the Adolescent and Children Rights Network, Assam (ACRNA), a forum of 21 NGOs working for children in the state where raging floods affect millions of people in the state from June to September.
“The children voiced their request for flood-resilient infrastructure, particularly schools. They said beyond erosion, the main issue was flooding because they were not in a position to attend schools… the schools were not accessible,” Chiranjib Kakoty of ACRNA said.
Hundreds of schools across the state remain submerged and hundreds of others across the state are turned into relief camps hindering education during the flood season.
The agenda, processed over a year and a half, conveyed the challenge of availing safe drinking water during the flood season and disasters as also proper toilets during the disaster. A group of teenage girls discussed their concerns to five political parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress and the Asom Gon Parishad.
“The idea of having some residential facility in the season because what happens is sometimes the distance between the place of residence and the school is so great that even if you have resilient infrastructure if you can’t access them, it has no meaning at all for them,” said Kakoty.
This is because floods disrupt the annual education calendar and this has ramifications for the protection of children.
“Once you drop out of school the spiralling down begins. It could be child labour, it could be child marriage and sometimes it could also be child trafficking,” Kakoty said.
The children’s query also deals with the reach of services and developmental indicators in a disaster-prone area.
Chiranjib Kakoty hoped the children’s appeal would move politicians to look at the issues from the perspective of child welfare.
“The issues listed are relevant to the children. We are optimistic that their voices will resonate with leaders,” Kakoty added. (Agencies)