UNICEF works with religious communities of all faiths on issues affecting children
A fundamental belief in the dignity of the child.
An emphasis on the family as the best place for bringing up children.
High priority given to children and the idea that all members of society have rights and duties towards them.
A holistic notion of the child and a comprehensive understanding of his or her physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs.
Aside from the potential benefits that religious actors bring to partnerships, spirituality and religion can have a profound influence on children’s development and socialization and have the potential to reinforce protective influences and promote resilience.
The beliefs, practices, social networks and resources of religion can instill hope, give meaning to difficult experiences and provide emotional, physical and spiritual support. When child rights efforts are grounded in the protective aspects of religious beliefs and practices in a community that encourages and enriches the spiritual and religious life of each child, the impact can be far-reaching.
In a country like India, faith plays a big part in constructing cultural, sociological and personal behaviour. Around 99 percent Indians choose to label themselves as belonging to a particular religion according to Census reports. Faith has a critical role to play in the advancement of basic human rights for children. According to the Census, over 99 percent Indians choose to label themselves as belonging to a particular religion.
Moreover, with a multitude of faiths like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and many more tribal faiths, India is a country made of people with strong identification to their faiths.With their extraordinary moral authority and power, faith-based organisations (FBOs) are able to influence thinking, foster dialogue, and set priorities for members of their communities.
FBOs provide UNICEF with the ‘reach’ to inaccessible areas; help make inroads into all sections of society across classes. Faith-based communities contribute social, spiritual and material to address needs of the most vulnerable children and families. This type of partnership also allows space for innovations in communicating and advocating on issues related to children.
UNICEF has a long history of working with religious communities of all faiths on far ranging issues that affect children. For instance, partnership with the Art of Living is on issues related to the protection of the girl child in India.
UNICEF has recently entered into a partnership with the Global Inter-faith WASH Alliance (GIWA). These partnerships form a critical component for UNICEF’s advocacy initiatives in India, support in strengthening of civil society and also complement the Government of India’s flagship schemes.
Art of Living
Founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Art of Living is an educational and humanitarian movement engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. Its reach is global, operating in 152 countries and has vast network of followers (370 million).
Spreading peace across communities forms the essence of Art of Living’s humanitarian projects that range from conflict resolution, disaster relief, sustainable rural development, empowerment of women, prisoner rehabilitation, education for all, to environmental sustainability.
UNICEF’s relationship, as a technical partner, with the Art of Living (AOL) began with the Volunteer for a Better India (VFABI) initiative (http://www.vfabi.org), launched on December 5, 2012, on World Volunteer Day.
The first phase of the VFABI campaign was unveiled in February 2013 from the ramparts of the Ramlila grounds in the capital, hosting over 100,000 youth, where UNICEF and the Art of Living signed a pledge to support the girl child, agreeing to work together to raise awareness and change mindsets for every girl’s right to dignity and respect.
In the second phase, state-level Youth Summits were organized under the banner of VFABI in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Gujarat, where more than 15,000 student/youth leaders pledged to act to support the girl child in India. Acts of Change emerged from across the country as a follow up to this outreach.
In the third leg of activities, the Pledge for the Girl Child campaign 2013 (http://thegirlpledge.org) was unveiled that reached out to over 1 million people across the country, who pledged to take small but important actions to promote the rights of the Girl Child.
Several important decision-makers joined the campaign, such as the Chief Minister of Haryana, DGP Uttar Pradesh, UP Chief Minister’s wife and standing MLA, Chief Justice of Jharkhand (http://events.thegirlpledge.org/category/events/). Also, journalists from different media houses, schools and colleges across states, inmates of Tihar jail and a number of corporations joined the campaign and pledged support.
As a natural progression from the Girl Pledge campaign in 2013, UNICEF and the Art of Living are moving into the next phase of action on issues related to the Girl Child – by creating a sense of responsibility among people by encouraging them to take tangible ‘Actions’.
The nationwide Call for Action campaign will inspire men, women, and children from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to ‘Act’ to protect the girl child against discrimination and abuse, especially in the context of the rising incidence of women and child abuse being reported in the media in the recent times. An estimated 40,000 Acts are expected materialize through this campaign, till the end of 2014.
More people practice open defecation in India than anywhere in the world – more than 595 million individuals which represents just under half of the population.
GIWA- the Global Interfaith WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Alliance (http://www.washalliance.org), with the technical support of UNICEF, is world’s first initiative that is engaging our many faiths as allies in an effort to create a world where every human being has access to safe drinking water, uses a toilet and practices proper hygiene.
GIWA was co-founded in India and the India chapter is the world’s first such operational alliance. The launch of GIWA India through the ‘Worship to WASH Summit’ to be held in Rishikesh in December 2014, will mark the start of a new social movement to end open defecation; one driven by senior religious leaders to eventually reach millions of homes. This event will also see a women’s leader summit to harness their collective reach and influence.
Above all GIWA is determined to see action rather than endless procrastination and talk