Universal Children’s Day Observed at West Bengal
Kolkata, November 20, 2006 – To commemorate Universal Children’s Day, an exhibition titled – ‘Deep Focus’ -- based on child rights was inaugurated at the Victoria Memorial Hall, in this eastern Indian city, today.
Eminent social worker Mira Bhattacharjee unveiled the exhibition and released a special edition of a child rights-based Bengali newspaper –“Dedar Khabar – Our News, Our Views” -- that has been created by the children and for the children.
‘Deep Focus’ showcases Government of West Bengal and UNICEF-supported projects in the state that are aimed at empowering children and generating awareness about child rights.
Mira Bhattacharjee applauded children’s efforts in bringing out the newspaper and putting the exhibition together. She said: “Children will form the government tomorrow. It is our duty that we give them every opportunity possible to be better informed and empowered. This newspaper has a major role to play.”
Speaking at the inauguration, Francesco D’Ovidio, UNICEF Officer-In-Charge, said: “Today is a special day for children worldwide. A great country like India, which is the world’s biggest democracy, can set an example of listening to children. Every child should have a say in issues that affect her and hearing them can help us design our interventions better. We want the children to feel a sense of importance and self-worth.”
“West Bengal has made significant progress in the terms of social development but still a lot needs to be done. One of the main challenges is reducing the gender gap in upper primary schools, especially among Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, putting an end to rampant incidents of child marriages, child labour, child trafficking and improving the health and nutrition status of mothers and children,” he added.
Universal Children’s Day was instituted following a recommendation by the United Nations’ General Assembly that called upon all countries to institute a day to observe worldwide fraternity and understanding between children.
The date 20th November marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), in 1989 and is celebrated as the Universal Children’s Day or the Child Rights Day.
Out of the basic rights of a child identified by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ‘right to expression’, the ‘right to participation’ and the ‘right to information’ are the least understood and appreciated by adults. Particularly, it can be seen that school students hardly get a chance to express their views in matters that concern them, more so if they belong to low income group schools located in the sub urban areas.
The exhibition is an attempt to showcase the process of bringing out a children’s newspaper – “Dedar Khabar – Our News, Our Views” – which is a tool to help children form informed opinions. The 16-page newssheet is in the vernacular language and contains school-related news, children’s take on happenings around them as well as news about children living in difficult circumstances. Also on display, were other activities undertaken by students like participating in the India Social Forum in New Delhi, formation of Student’s Council, debates etc. Well-known artist Shanu Lahiri was the guest of honour. Child reporter Mayuri Mukherjee, who is also part of the student editorial team of the newspaper, said: “We children hardly get a chance to express our views in matters that concern us, more so if we are in sub-urban and rural schools. We are happy and proud of Dedar Khabor that gives our news in our voices.”
She along with other child reporters took a pledge to spread awareness about child rights and to carry on the newspaper in years to come. Children also staged a docu-drama on the theme of rights of the girl child.
Earlier, child reporters and editors had met with Chief Minister Bhuddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Education Minister Partho De to present the newspaper. Welcoming the endeavour, the chief minister called for all schools in the state to bring out newspapers that are a mouthpiece for students as well as out-of-school children.