“Walking on the road to school, I often get teased men riding by,” said Radha, a student of class 7. “If roads are made better, why don’t we still have access to transportation? It’s time I feel safe walking to and from my own school.”
It’s convenient to think that children aren’t capable of catalyzing change. For those who believe in this, it’s probably time to witness Makkala Gram Sabha (Children’s Panchayat of sorts).
From clean and extra toilets, eliminating wine shops near schools, the need for English as the medium of instruction, to better quality of midday meals, compound walls and computers – these were the topics that ruled the day when children spoke up and exercised their rights.
Introduced by Government of Karnataka in 2006, every Gram Panchayat in the state was mandated to conduct such a gathering for children every year to create opportunities for them to address their issues to the elected representatives directly. The practice also allows for improved knowledge of a Democracy and its functions among our youth.
On December 13, 2018, The Ambedkar Bhavan in Dommasandra opened its doors to over 200 children from four schools of the Dommasandra Gram Panchayat limits, where Mantra4Change has been working to build an empowered cluster of government-run schools.
The Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj makes it mandatory for all Panchayats to conduct these gatherings of students annually. The Panchayat is also obligated to report to the authorities on the actions taken as a response to issues raised by children.
The idea of Makkala Gram Sabha was conceived during a team meeting when we sat together to brainstorm on reviving an activity which was on paper for long. After meeting the Panchayat Development Officer in Dommasandra, Ms. Vijetha and the President of the Gram Panchayat, Mr. Umesh Babu, the planning for a successful Makkala Gram Sabha began.
For the first time, the Dommasandra Panchayat was about to witness the power of young voices hoping and advocating for a better future. It was a proud moment for Mantra4Change to partner with the Gram Panchayat and conduct the Sabha. The commitment to making this an annual event was expressed many times through the day.
In the days leading up to the final event, five groups of children from the Government Schools in the cluster made a series of home visits to understand the problems being faced by the community there. This list also contained issues of the school that needed to be addressed.
Child Rights activist, Mr. Venkatesh used the occasion to throw light on the laws for children and the need for stages where children could share their views on matters that pertain to them. “The right to live, right to development, right to participate and right to protection are core to making our children feel safe, aware and secure in their schools, homes, and community,” said Mr. Venkatesh.
Written by Maruti Talawar, Team Cluster Transformation Project, Mantra4change With contributions from Ms. Sudha Nair, Domain Consultant, ShikshaLokam