Author: Aishwarya Das Pattnaik of the Humara Bachpan Campaign, December 2 2014 - Running high on speculative delays of gaining a passport and the series of formalities attached took everyone on a whirlpool ride. Many blockages in the form of authority rigidness to piles of paper work and running to get more papers checked was a task that was waived off gently by the dedicated Humara Bachpan Campaign team. A national campaign for safe and healthy environment for children living in urban poverty. Even after some hectic and untimely occurring of such magnitude did not stop the sheer willingness to approach our final goal to set the dream of the 7 children from the remotest slums of Odisha for an International Conference to be held at Caux, Switzerland. The CATS (Children as Actors for Transforming the Society) Conference was a platform where child leaders from across the globe were selected to demonstrate their ideas and exhibit as Actors for uniting the fragmented society. The conference format helped to facilitate the unpacking of crucial concepts, issues, practices and experiences of both children and those working with them. Engagement by the young participants included running some of the dynamic minds for discussions.

The conference also included some approaches of Learning for Well-being which is the process of fully engaging and expressing who we are as individuals within our common realms in social, societal and environmental contexts. Initiatives of Change, Child to Child and the Universal Education Foundation were associated partners for this event.

Children are the prism through which policies must be crafted. Their ideas and views must be taken into cognizance while drafting policies at State, Central or International avenues. Their participation is indeed of much valuable importance as they are the pallbearers of the future generation. Also, a child’s reflection is considered to be coated with innocent demands and these demands are well indeed of grave relevance but get blurred most of the time. And finally half-baked reforms demand charters and policies are formed. Hence, the latest JNnuRM and RAY initiative of the UPA-II Government though a very appreciable stand but was objectionable as they turned a blindfold to child friendly components. And the result of the end picture was not as it was hoped for.

Nevertheless, Humara Bachpan Campaign along with the support from its partners and Aid support from Bernard van Leer Foundation, helped to make the voices of these child leaders heard on an International pedestal. The excited and highly talented child advocates had many interactive sessions with their fellow contemporaries from around the world. They not only made their views and shared their insights but pulled a large crowd of fans for themselves as well. Their vivacity and utmost diligence to act as "advocates for change" called for due appreciation from across the many participants present at the conference. Their work which they had performed for their community gained paramount support from the audience and was lauded at the same time. They were extolled to work further for the cause and bring sustainable changes in their fight for better living condition for the Urban poor. As the bourgeoisies has climbed the ladder and a vast gulf has been formed, their needs and demands are given partial heed but not implemented properly.

The Housing and Urban Development Department which is the nodal department of Odisha was formulated to ensure planned development of cities and towns. It’s objectives were to make economically vibrant provisions and sustainable public infrastructure which includes affordable housing and livelihood opportunities for all sections of life. But statistics shows that 84% of department budget in average during the last 5 years goes for establishment, maintenance and house keeping related expenditure, while only 16% have been allocated for creation of new assets against rapid urbanisation in the state of Odisha. While the urban poor populace has reached sky high limits against rapid urbanization their allocation towards new plans and creation of new assets and utilization of budgets pose a double challenge for the urban poor development. And in due process a child’s privileges have not been paid heed.

But these children are not interested to sit idle. They put their demands on the table and speak for their rights and demands. They even promote change in their own communities and build steps for improvement. There is active participation in the child clubs, as they hold discussions and debates on matters of importance and concern. They have indeed set a movement which has gained widespread attention from authorities and the society at large. This small attempt to bring a more healthy and holistic future for the children was not only the prior goal of the Humara Bachpan Campaign, but to help to induce a chartered definitive change in the outlook of people was its indubitable final aim.

The Caux exposure surely has incited more zeal among the child advocates. They will continue with their will to stand by their cause. This conference has not only made them believe that they are not sidelined in their society but that, "Dreams are meant to be dreamt. And Dreams are meant to be the next Reality."
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Image credit: Humara Bachpan