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Celebrating Children's Right To Be Heard
By Thomas Pallithanam
Hyderabad, Nov. 30. On 28-29 November 142 children - 57 girls and 83 boys, all members of human rights clubs - had a two day  interaction with Juvenile Justice Functionaries of Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts of Andhra Pradesh. Participating with interest and commitment in the celebration of Children's Right to be heard Programme were 15 members of Juvenile Justice Boards, Child Welfare Committees, Special Juvenile Police Units and the District Child Protection Units. Children representing 63 human rights clubs from 55 schools had many heart-warming stories to narrate of  their attempts to be ''Citizens Today'' and not of tomorrow as they are traditionally told to be.
JJ Functionaries listening to children telling them the activities they have undertaken and the problems that they have identified.
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The programme on 28th and 29th November 2014 provided a platform for children from human rights  clubs to exercise their Right to be Heard, a right enshrined in the CRC.   Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides: ''1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.''  It was only fitting that in the 25th year of the CRC this right is recognized and children enable to exercise this right. With a great sense of excitement and fulfillment children shared the little successes they had through the actions they took up under the auspices of their human rights clubs.

A.Laxmanrao of Ambedkar HRC, Zilla Parishad High School of GSP Puram spoke of how their representation to authorities resulted in better quality mid-day meals.

K. Ramu of Aung San Suu Kyi, HRC from Dolapeta school spoke of the rally they conducted on the World Environment Day besides getting a compound wall sanctioned for the school and also of getting drop outs back to the school.

Ramakrishnamma of  Nehru HRC of Lakkidam shcool spoke with pride of  getting two children  re-admitted to school through using the 1098 facility and also of conducting a rally on Child rights in CRC Week.

Prasanti K of Mother Theresa HRC spoke of their club's effort to clear the debris after the Hudhud Cyclone and making representation to the Municipal Commissioner regarding the state of sanitation around the school.

Children also exhibited the media coverage they had received while doing these activities. Almost every club had some stories to narrate. They also had their complaints regarding the lack adequate number of class rooms, lack of toilets, drinking water, poor sanitation around the school, lack of compound wall that results in antisocial elements having easy access to the school premises in the night.

Interestingly they also spoke of the system  that grades their performance in school. They said that they had no clue how it works!

The enthusiasm the children showed in narrating their clubs' activities and the courage they manifested in high lighting their problems  were equally matched by the response of the Juvenile Justice Officials. The Chairperson of the Vizianagaram Child Welfare Committee promptly called up the sanitation inspector of the area from which complaints had come and got an undertaking that the matter would be addressed expeditiously.

Mr Chittibabu anchored the program and Fr John Tharakan and Mr Ramesh Taritla were the main facilitators.

Since 2008 People's Action For Rural  Awakening (PARA) in partnership with the Institute of Human Rights Education has been in the forefront of taking human rights education to government schools of Andhra Pradesh. Today the effort extends also to the schools of Telengana State. PARA's advocacy efforts with the governments have resulted in over 1,67,000 government teachers being trained in human rights education. The education department  today recognizes the need for setting up human rights clubs in schools. With the revision of text books done in the last year human rights lessons have been mainstreamed into the state school text books.

PARA intends to take up the same program in 12 other districts of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana States where human rights clubs are being formed. With children willing to speak up and stand up for themselves there is hope for that they will be listened to and that their Right To be Heard can be made real.

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