On World Children’s Day, India turned blue as her children united for their rights and ‘took over’ high-profile roles in entertainment, sports, media and business to highlight issues important to them.
As part of the #GoBlueForChildren campaign, spearheaded by UNICEF, supporters raised their voices in solidarity with the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children. They did this by helping ‘turn the world blue’ – by doing or wearing something blue at school, on the streets, on social media, in boardrooms and on sports fields on 20 November.
They attempted to reach one billion people to play their part in building a world where every child is in school, safe from harm, and fulfilling their potential.
UNICEF India Representative, Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, said, “We are excited to go blue for children. There are millions of girls and boys throughout India who have their dreams and aspirations and a strong conviction that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to. And for us, it is our duty to do whatever we can to accompany them on this journey. That’s why children’s day is important because it is a day for children, by children.”
Legendary cricketer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Sachin Tendulkar, played a unified football match with athletes from Special Olympics (Bharat), a global organisation that serves athletes with intellectual disabilities. He also participated in a panel discussion on what makes schools an enabling and supportive environment for children—this year’s theme.
The theme this year focused on ‘Schools as a supportive environment for children’.
To kick-start the activities, sprinter and Asian Games gold medallist Hima Das was appointed UNICEF Youth Ambassador, to inspire and gather support to the cause of children and young people. “I believe that as the first-ever Youth Ambassador, I would be able to put the spotlight on issues faced by these young people. Children want every school to be a supportive environment for every boy and girl regardless of their background, gender or ability,” she said.
Landmark monuments such as the Rashtrapati Bhavan and iconic buildings such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Mumbai, the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), Hyderabad, and the historic Minto Hall (old Legislative Assembly building), Bhopal, were lit up in blue.
The Foreign Correspondent Club, New Delhi, and UNICEF state offices across the country also joined the #GoBlue campaign in solidarity and with vigour for child rights. Prabhat Khabar turned its masthead blue while Amar Ujala published a series on the empowerment of girls.
Doordarshan aired special programmes with children as anchors and FM stations partnered with the UN body to amplify children’s voices. Children took over the Hindustan Times’ Lucknow edition.
Nisha Maurya, 14, a student at the National Child Labour School, Lucknow, was working as a domestic labourer till the time of her rescue. Along with five other children from leading schools in Lucknow, she visited the newspaper on November 19.
She says, “I could never have imagined that I would be a part of such a team of children going to an English newspaper office where they would write about my story. I was so happy to see my photo in the newspaper.”
Johnson & Johnson India’s head office in Mumbai was lit up in blue. Decathlon, a leader in sports goods, organised events across all their stores as their employees engaged with children in various schools. Nearly 600 Bridgestone employees showed their solidarity by wearing blue and participating in a child rights quiz organised at their premises in Pune.
Emrana Sheikh, J&J’s Head of HR, India and South Asia, told The Better India, “Our support for the UNICEF Go Blue initiative is our responsibility towards ensuring a world where children are empowered with their right to help and safety.”
UNICEF India released the findings from a UN report poll, an SMS-based social messaging tool. The poll conducted among children identified key facets that make schools a supportive and safe environment. Quality of teaching emerged as the most critical pillar in education where children highlighted the need for fearless and enabling classrooms.
Respondents also highlighted other issues, including the importance of innovative and interesting learning materials, parents’ engagement and teacher-student relationships as key to making schools supportive.
Bullying emerged as the main cause for abuse and violence against children. Child rights training, support from parents and peers were proposed as the best solutions.
As part of the campaign, the Atal Innovation Mission’s Atal Tinkering Labs and UNICEF launched a 72-hour Tinkering Hackathon from 14 to 17 November. NITI Aayog and UNICEF gave awards to the children who came up with the most innovative solutions to challenges, especially about the quality of education and safety.
Aaditya Voruganti, a student of the National Centre For Excellence, Bengaluru, won an award for creating a tool that uses the Internet of Things to monitor the status of toilets, ensures safety and hygiene and improves effective usage of school and public toilets.
The proposed model for Smart Toilets can be built and maintained by school students, monitored centrally at district, state/national level using the Atal Tinkering Labs infrastructure for building the Smart Toilet Monitoring device.
Rohit Jaiswal, a student of NES High School and JR College, Mumbai, won an award for developing a band, Human Help (H2), that creates a teacher-to-teacher network to monitor and control situations, and to provide instant help within 90 seconds. It can track the position of the person automatically when she/he is in an emergency (for instance, when the pulse rate suddenly increases or decreases) and activates the positioning system of the kids.
Engaging parliamentarians, children spoke on various aspects of what it means for them to have schools as supportive and safe spaces. Thousands of children actively participated across states. Rajasthan saw children discussing child rights and negotiating for their inclusion in the election manifesto. In Karnataka, children came together at the Vidhan Soudha and spoke on child rights with the Chief Minister and other legislators.
The campaign is a step forward in reminding the world about engaging children in a democratic process and ensuring social justice. “Children should not be radicalized. We must pledge for equality for children. This equality is possible only if every child is in school,” said Prof Shantha Sinha, an anti-child labour activist and a Magsaysay award winner for community leadership.