Children of West Bengal are taking matters into their own little hands, this election season. They are gearing up to meet with politicians to ask questions and push for resolving civic issues. They know they aren’t eligible to vote but they still get affected by politicians’ decisions.
Like Sony Khatoon, a 13-year-old who lives in Kolkata’s port area. He recently met with Trinamool Congress candidate Firhad Hakim, while he was campaigning in Khatoon’s area.
“When I went to him he gave me a chocolate. I said I don’t want that chocolate but want the drain to be cleaned regularly. He promised me to get the work done,” said Khatoon.
Suru Bera is a 14-year-old who migrated with her family from Odisha.
“There are many children like me who want to study, only we had a Hindi medium school or a teacher who could understand Hindi,” she said, lamenting the lack of adequate educational facilities in her area, South 24 Parganas district, Alipore.
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Backed by the NGO, Save The Children, the children are preparing themselves with a list of issues that can be brought to the politicians’ attention.
Speaking to them directly about issues that relate to children would increase the impact, according to the children.
Issues include child marriage, improvement of educational facilities, protecting them from trafficking, lack of Integrated Child Development Service centres, and reducing causes for school dropouts, among others.
The plan right now is to write to the heads of political parties, detailing the issues and how they affect them. Later, they plan to host FM radio shows to get the message across to a wider audience.
Chittapriyo Sadhu, who heads Save The Children’s state programme, believes that politicians are missing out interaction with one of the larger sections of society.
“Political parties in their manifestos have mentioned about child rights only in a broad sense,” he said, “So we are making this endeavour to create a space for children to appeal for due attention and action on their issues. We want them to make children a priority area.”
Reshma Khatoon is another youngster from South 24 Parganas district, who reflects Bera’s concern. “Please vote for that party or leaders who will fight for child rights,” she urges voters.