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25 yrs of journey & still miles to go

DEC 25 -

Although the Paropakar Kendra, established in 1950 by Dayabir Singh Kangsakar, was the first Nepali organisation to work for the welfare of children, it was Child Workers in Nepal (Cwin) that first raised the issue through a rights-based approach. Founded by a group of young university students led by Gauri Pradhan, who is is now a member of the National Human Rights Commission, Cwin celebrated its silver jubilee in November.

Cwin’s major achievement, through a movement lasting 25 years, is that it has established the erstwhile neglected issues of child rights into a national agenda. After the celebration of International Children’s Year in 1979, the world felt the need for a UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to make the countries more responsible and accountable towards child rights. A draft of the convention was subsequently endorsed in 1989 after different phases of discussion at the international level.

However, in Nepal, there was a misconception among human rights campaigners that child rights could be easily guaranteed if citizen and political rights were ensured. According to Tarak Dhital, Cwin spokesperson, before 1990, human rights activists were not too interested in child rights. Now, the institutionalisation of many legal provisions and policies and the development of different administrative structures are notable milestones for the child rights movement, spearheaded by Cwin.

Dhital said it was the child rights movement that led the government to set-up the Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB) and District Child Welfare Committees. “It was our advocacy that sensitised political leaders to incorporate child rights as a fundamental right in the 1990 Constitution and the Interim Constitution,” he said. In recognition of Cwin’s contributions, Pradhan was one of the key persons to draft the National Plan of Action for Children 2004/05-2014/15.

Cwin’s main task has been the protection of children, whether through rescue, emergency shelter, counselling, reintegration or providing legal services. It operates five Child Helplines, a hotline for children at risk, and runs the Peace Home, a long-term transit centre for children without alternatives of reintegration. It  also deals with children affected by the 10-year civil war, former child soldiers and runs programmes with youth on conflict transformation.

Cwin data shows 259,473 children, so far, have been provided with educational support, around 18,000 have been rescued and provided with legal support based on helpline complaints, 5,100 have received vocational training, while over 100 studies have been conducted on the status of children.

Similarly, 20,000 children who were victims of the conflict have received different kinds of support, while over 7,000 children have been rehabilitated. There are now over 1,000 NGOs working in the same areas as Cwin. However, despite significant progress in policy and commitments, the number of child rights violations shows that a lot still remains to be done.

A recent report by the CCWB shows that 4,828 cases of crimes against children and child rights violations were reported in the fiscal year 2011/2012, against 4,322 in the preceding year. The number of cases of violence against children in the same period was 591. Corporal punishment was most prevalent, followed by rape and murder. The report shows that 84 children were raped, while 72 were killed. Almost 15 percent of those raped were below 10, while 10.5 percent of cases were of incest. However, perpetrators were only arrested in 73 cases. The national census report shows that 44.2 percent of the total population comprises of children below 18 years of age.

Despite the progress that Cwin has led in the area of child rights, most of its activities are focussed in city areas, although there are a few programmes in districts like Rolpa and Rukum, the areas that were most affected by the conflict. In the coming days, it will be necessary for Cwin to conduct special campaigns in all rural, marginalised and poor areas if child rights are to be ensured and all types of injustice, inequality and abuse of children are to end.

Posted on: 2012-12-25 08:21