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Thousands of children march to claim their rights

Feb 05, 2013

Thousands of Children gather at Parliament Street in New Delhi to submit a ‘Children’s Manifesto’ to Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator to India, who will take it to World Leaders assembling at New York for U.N General Assembly in September 2013.

New Delhi: Around 5400 children assembled at Parliament Street on 2nd February, 2013 to call for the increase in the Budget allocation for health and education.

Assembling at Parliament Street, they claimed their rights as citizens to keep governments accountable to their promise of allocating 9% of the GDP to Education and Health by Elections 2014.

Lise Grande the UN resident coordinator accepted the children's Manifesto and promised to submit it to all the World Leaders assembling in New York in September this year.

Leslie Lewis performed and energized the gathering with his inspirational songs.

Children from 18 States across India had been engaged in drafting their own Children's Manifesto in the hope of influencing the Manifestos of Political Parties in their lead up to General Elections 2014. They also have submitted this Manifesto as their Charter of demands to the United Nations General Secretary that meets to decide the way forward beyond the Millennium Development Goals. This Manifesto was validated by eminent development actors such as David McLoughlin from the UNICEF, Shri Biraj Patnaik, Shri Harsh Mandar, Shri Praveen Jha, and Ms. Enakshi Ganguly.

The gathering began with children from 14 States together with their peers from both vulnerable situations and private schools, missionary schools like Salwan Public Schools, Loreto Convent, St.Xaviers, Springdales Schools, Presentation Convent and from social organizations who have endorsed the campaign like Chetnalaya, Salaam Balak Trust, World Vision, Bridge of Hope, Manzil Asha Deep Foundation in a processional march along Tolstoy Marg where they performed  cultural dances and raised the call of 9% in health education and child rights through banners, slogans and other child friendly paraphernalia. The Public Day March was modeled on the Republic Day Parade which is silent on the issues of 80% of India's Population that lives close to or below the International Poverty Line.

Children themselves marched to model an inclusive India that is based on a growth that focuses on the last Indian. The States and Union Territories represented were 14 States including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal.

Manzil Mystics a musical band from the social organisation Manzil which works with children from low income groups set the tone for the gathering at Parliament Street while invoking Sansad to respond to the young kidizens that claim their space as young activists at Parliament Street itself. Leslie Lewis of the Colonial Cousins Fame began his performance with a modern yet solemn rendition of the Jana Gana Mana, which came shortly after the 1 minute silence in honor of the Mahatma. The children gathered close to Jantar Mantar on the Parliament street reminding Parliamentarians to keep them as the focus of the budget which is to be announced in a month's time. They raised the call from 3% to 5% for health in keeping with the WHO recommendations.

Recalling the story of Malala, the young Pakistani girl who challenged the Taliban who prevented her from enjoying her right to education, children endeavored to be Malalas in their own situations reclaiming their rights as defenders of democracy. They wore masks of Malala while each proclaimed that 'I am Malala'. Children also raised their voice for the situation of Malnutrition in India highlighting the issue of 5000 Children Dying each day due to malnutrition and the miserable state of health services. They raised up posters that read, "No child, born to die" and shouted slogans to voice concern against the deaths of children due hunger & malnutrition.

John Dayal an eminent journalist and civil rights activist and Ambarish Rai the National Convenor of the RTE Forum were present along with Lise Grande to show solidarity to the Campaign and raised the Children’s Manifesto to show their validation.

Grande  has invited the children to take part in the “My World 2015 Surveyt” a United Nations Global survey for citizens to capture people’s voices, priorities and views for defining the next set of global millennium development goals to end poverty . She challenged them to gather a 100,000 children to list their priorities for a world free from poverty and social exclusion and committed herself to represent the children's aspirations and their manifesto before all the 193 World Leaders who would be gathering at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The gathering ended with an innovative rendition of the National Anthem in sign language. This was led by representatives from various states. It called for India to listen to the silent voices of the excluded and marginalized India.

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