Children’s Parliament: Counting voices, not votes

Children from 25 states of India presented their manifesto to the major political parties of India ahead of the 2019 General Elections.

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Prashant Bhushan releasing Children’s Manifesto

40 children from 25 states of India met in Delhi for three days in their ‘Inclusive National Children’s Parliament (INCP) from January 30 to February 1 and discussed their life experiences, issues/concerns and how these issues could be addressed. They also discussed what political parties and the elected representatives of Indian Parliament should do after winning the 2019 General Elections.

During INCP, 13-17 year olds prepared their manifesto and elected their representatives (the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Parliamentary Affairs Minister and Deputy Parliamentary Affairs Minister) for the year 2019-20. Each elected representative (child) was assigned a ministry based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A 14-year-old girl, Rita from Bhoi, Meghalaya said, ‘We the children of India’ would like to tell all the political parties that please don’t ignore children’s rights. We know that we don’t have voting rights, but you should realise that we can influence at least two of your voters, i.e. our mother and father.”

Similarly, Arpita, a 15-year-old girl from Chitradurga, Karnataka while speaking in the INCP appealed to the voting populace to vote for parties that listen to children’s voices.

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“I will request my parents and relatives to vote only for those parties which incorporates our demands in their manifesto for 2019 general elections and commits to act on those issues after winning the elections,” she said.

The children then had the opportunity of presenting their manifesto to S.S. Ahluwalia, Minister of State Electronics and Information Technology, GOI (BJP), Mukul Wasnik, Former Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, GOI and Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Priyank Kanoongo.

Children also visited the headquarters of the major political parties and submitted their manifesto to the leaders of those political parties with a request to incorporate children’s recommendations into the manifesto of their Political Party for the upcoming elections.

Notably, Children’s Parliament is an inclusive and democratic body – ‘of the children, for the children and by the children’ convened by PRATYeK, a not-for-profit organisation in 2015 as part of its NINEISMINE national campaign that aims for children to claim their rightful share of 9 per cent of GDP as promised by the Government of India for their health (3 per cent) and education (6 per cent).

Presenting Manifesto to Mukul Vasnik, Leader INC

Over the years, NINEISMINE has been organising and strengthening Children’s Parliaments across the country and federating them at the national level so as to engage with all key policy-makers and decision-makers starting from the local gram panchayat level to Parliamentarians’ level to talk about their rights.

“Public Interest Lawyer to the Supreme Court of India and activist Prashant Bhushan who was the Guest of Honour in the Manifesto releasing and oath taking ceremony of the SDG ministers of INCP mentioned children as major stakeholders of any country.”

“Children’s Parliament is a great medium for bringing every child together, especially children belonging to the marginalised sections and children with disabilities to speak for their rights,” he said referring to the campaign and organisation’s efforts to become inclusive – by reaching out to the last child, which includes children from different backgrounds such as Dalit, Adivasis, Minorities and Children with Disabilities.

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‘When India signed SDGs, we created a forum for children to speak. National Children’s Parliament is a federation of neighbourhood children’s parliaments that address local, state, national and international forums towards affecting their own lives and those of their peers’ reads the campaign site.