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Towards a Child Friendly Guwahati
By Jayaprakash
Guwahati, Apr. 22. A meeting was held on Wednesday, 17 April 2013, at 5.30 pm at Bishop's house Guwahati, at which Archbishop John Moolachira and the Heads of catholic institutions of the city discussed about strategies to make Guwahati a truly Child Friendly City. There were 22 participants taking part in the meeting.
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The Archbishop introduced the topic citing the example of Pope Francis who has a great love for the poor. ''We may be comfortable in our own area of service,  a little work done here and there. But the question  that needs to be asked is, what more could be done for the poor children in our neighbourhood?'', said the Archbishop.

Rev. Fr. V.M. Thomas, who has taken leadership in this matter, continued the reflection and pointed out that the city of Guwahati is one of the fastest growing cities of India, with latest brands, numerous quality restaurants and other fast growing commercial ventures. He also showed the poverty of the city and the negative aspects of city life through a power point presentation titled ''Children on the Edge''. It highlighted the child rights issues of the city like child labour, rag picking, and substance abuse among children, problems of single parents and their children,  child abuse particularly economic and sexual exploitation of  poor girls trying to eke out a living to support their families.

''There are about 38 catholic institution with about a dozen provincial houses, with about 150 or more religious working in different fields'', he said. Quoting prophet Ezekiel he challenged the assembly quoting the warning given in chapter 34 to shepherds who are busy with themselves and not taking care of the sheep entrusted to them. He then asked, ''We as strong Church force, what more could be done for the poor women and children?''

In the discussion that followed,  Fr. Francis Thadathil the MSFS Provincial Superior of the  MSFS  said that we could  build up  networking  and collaborating  among the  various Catholic  institutions working on similar issues and give greater visibility to  the services of the Church for poor children  in a more tangible way.

Sr. Teresa Joseph, MSMHC said they are working with nearly 1000 slum children with the help of the Government  and the UNICEF. She  added  that the slums in Guwahati City  are growing, but as a result of their animation the attitude of the  parents is gradually  changing and some of them are already sending their children to school.  But they live in a very poor  environment , and the quality of education in the schools they attend is poor. The MSMHC are mostly working with domestic workers.

The suggestions that came up at the meeting are:
� Interventions to be organized zone-wise.
� A situation assessment of the  zones to be done before starting our intervention.
� One of the interventions could be conducting of  remedial classes.
� Special attention should be given to elimination of child labour and rehabilitation of children who have been freed from child labour.
� In line with RTE, to ensure the enrollment of all  children  in the neighbourhood, to our schools  if they are under 14 years.
� The Provincials and Heads of all institutions of Guwahati city could be present for the next meeting  so that concrete decisions can be made.


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