Role of Panchayat members in child protection
This topic provides information about the role of panchayat members in child protection.
Child protection issues
As elected representatives of your gram panchayat you are responsible for ensuring the development and protecting the rights of villagers. Your task is to contribute to socio-economic growth and more importantly, to protect the unprotected majority of the population within the village.
Children form a majority of the most unprotected and weakest sections of the village population. As elected representatives, it is your responsibility to ensure the protection of their rights. Although children are not voters today, they will grow up to be responsible citizens and as adults, we are accountable for their upbringing.
It can be seen that often children become targets for abuse, exploitation and violence. While on one hand, this can be largely attributed to the malpractices prevalent in our society; on the other hand, there is general ignorance about child rights in our society. In spite of several efforts by the government and non-governmental organisations to support child rights, we still see many children working as labourers, being deprived of education and facing violence and abuse in their families, schools and within society. Furthermore, they are also targets of religious and caste discrimination. Girls particularly, are more vulnerable to this kind of discrimination. Many communities kill the girl child after birth; being a girl child makes them more vulnerable to discrimination in society and families, leading to a life bereft of education and development.
Child marriage is another traditional practice that is responsible for stunting the development of children. They are deprived of educational opportunities and are instead burdened with household responsibilities early in life.
Keeping all these facts in mind and as elected representatives of the gram panchayat, it is important that you understand the current plight of children, their rights, and how by protecting these rights, you can ensure a safe environment for them.
Importance of child protection
Although the definition of a child varies according to different sources, according to international and Indian law, a child is a human being below the age of 18 years who is in need of care and protection and is entitled to receive it from the state. This means that every individual in the village who is less than 18 years should be considered a child and be provided necessary support and protection.
Why do children require protection and why do they need special attention? There are various reasons for this:
- Children are the future of our country. If we protect their health, they as healthy citizens will help contribute to the development of the country.
- As compared to adults, children are more vulnerable to the living conditions.
- Children are more affected than any other age group by the actions and inactions of governments and society.
- In our society, children are considered to be the property of their parents, have no rights and are not ready to contribute to society.
- Children not have the right to vote and often they cannot voice their opinions to others.
- Children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
It is necessary to support and protect a child for the above reasons and panchayat members can play an important role in doing so.
The constitution of India guarantees all children certain rights which have been specially included for them. These include:
- Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age group – the constitution of India guarantees free education to children in the 6-14 age group
- Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years – children under the age of 14 years will not be employed to undertake any hazardous job
- Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength – children will not be employed in jobs which are not suitable to their age or strength
- Right to equal opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner – all children will be given equal opportunities to develop in a healthy manner
- Right to equality – like adults, children will have a right to equality, irrespective of caste, gender and social background
- Right against discrimination – children will not be discriminated against based on caste, gender, religion or otherwise
- Right to protection from being trafficked and forced into bonded labour – every child has the right to be protected from being trafficked and pushed into bonded labour
- Right to health and nutrition – every child, irrespective of gender, class or caste has the right to access health facilities so that he/she can grow up to be a healthy citizen. It is important to provide health facilities and save children from malnutrition; it is their right.
Besides these constitutional rights, there are several laws specially designed for the protection and rights of children. As responsible members of the panchayat, it is important that you are aware of them and their significance. In doing so, you will be able to contribute to protection of child rights in your village.
Government schemes for child protection
- Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS)
- Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)
- Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
- Scheme for Adolescent Girls
- Mid-Day Meal Scheme
- Kishori Shakti Yojana
- Reproductive And Child Health (RCH) Programme
- National Child Labour Project
- Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao