Did you ever think that 12-year-olds could face the Government head-on and demand their rights from the authorities? This is not a superhero series in a children’s book. It’s real life.

Last November, the ‘Children’s Parliament’ grilled some important ministers gathered at the Legislative Home, Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore.

What is the Children’s Parliament?

Karnataka Child Rights Observatory (KCRO), supported by the UN is an advocacy forum that sensitises the electorate to include children's key issues in their demands in their manifestos and speeches.

From 2007 - 2011, children’s parliaments were held in 27 districts of Karnataka to bring together children for a debate on the situation and priorities of children.

The first Children’s Parliament was conducted at Vidhana Soudha on the occasion of Children’s Day (14 Nov, 2012) with Sadananda Gowda, the then Chief Minster.

"Children are not a priority"

"It is a big task for us to push for children's affairs," Nagasimha G Rao, campaign coordinator of the KCRO says.

Shockingly, he states that only 0.03% of the entire State budget was allocated towards the protection of children in the State of Karnataka in 2013.

He further says that from 2004, KCRO has been analysing the manifestos of all the political parties. There are absolutely no provisions for children in their state agendas.

Four brave young voices from the heart of Karnataka

Bhavani Kautge, Bidar, 13 years old

Our schools don’t have sufficient and clean food and water. A lot of children fall sick.

If a girl is born, the baby is thrown in the gutter.

Mallana Gouda, Raichur, 17 years old

I was one of the many thousands of children working in the cotton fields. Some kids are barely six years old.

The chemicals we work with leave lasting effects on our health. I have already had two surgeries, in the eye and my heart. NGOs have funded my surgeries. There are no medical centres, or even secondary schools here.

Government should cancel the license of factories employing young children.

Shweta Baskar Byondur, Udipi, 16 years old

"We cannot afford to buy bus tickets. We walk by the rail tracks for almost three kilometres to school daily.

My parents were forcing me to get married. I don't want to get married so young. I want to study and become a lawyer.

I now live in the care of an NGO. If I go home, I will be forced into marriage.

I now fear for the fate of my sisters.

Rahemat Banu, Gadag, 14 years old

"Teachers in our orphanages and Government schools ill-treat us. Out of this humiliation, many kids, some lesser than 10 years of age have committed suicide."

So What Next?

KCRO and the children have consistently been following up on the outcome of previous year’s meetings with all the concerned ministers. The children have written 50 letters this year, raising questions on the promises made to them.

Can Power of 49 make a difference to young India?

If the most vulnerable and least equipped section of the community are confronting the ones in power and holding them accountable, what are the rest of us waiting for?

Children are not a votebank. However, 49% women make up the voter base in India. That's a huge number. Let's stand by children and ensure our ruling system takes accountability for the youth of this country. These children need us.

The onus of teaching children to be better citizens of tomorrow lies with us. However, these kids are teaching us lessons on being good citizens. The roles have reversed and they are teaching us what we should be teaching them.

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