Mumbai: Emphasising their right to play, thousands of children gathered from across the city and hit the ground at Priyadarshani Park for the ‘Khelte Raho’ celebration to mark World Children’s Day. With much vigour and enthusiasm, they played football, tennis, cricket, mallakhamb and many adventure sports. A two-day long programme was organised by the Maharashtra Commission of Protection of Child Rights (MCPCR), District Women and Child Development Officer, Mumbai district and UNICEF.
The other development partners include CRY, Nine is Mine and the Citizens Association for Child Rights.
This year’s World Children’s Day recognises the right of every child to rest, leisure and play. World Children’s Day is the UN’s global day of action for children, by children, marking the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on November 20 in 1989. Regardless of gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or other status, every child deserves to feel celebrated and has the right to be included and protected against all forms of discrimination.
The Priyadarshani Park was decorated on November 20 and 21 to welcome the children with balloons, posters, lighting and flags. It had various stalls for pottery, art wall, storytelling, magic show, tattoo and bubble making. Children enjoyed the workshop of their choice. Children from Rochiram Thadani School for Hearing Handicapped performed ‘Vande Mataram’ in a very innovative way by using sign language. A group of children performed rope mallakhab showing their balancing skills. Another group performed a dance receiving huge applause from the public.
Former Indian basketball team captain Divya Singh cheered up the kids at the event and played with them. While addressing them, Singh said it was a pleasure to have fun with the children. “I am glad that the United Nations has chosen the right to play as a theme for World Children’s Day this year. Our country has many talented children with great potential to become world-class players. However, lack of attention towards games, very few opportunities at a young age and overall apathy towards sports marred their future to pursue a career in sports. We should take this opportunity to convey a strong message to society that sports is an integral part of our children’s lives and we must give them sufficient time and opportunities to pursue it,” she said.
Welcoming the children on the occasion, Adv. Susiben Shah, Chairperson, of Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Mumbai said that the Commission’s emphasis is to have a child-friendly Maharashtra. “We believe in protecting child rights and our effort is to follow Indian values Swarajya, Satya and Ahimsa. The children should feel that it is their state. We strongly oppose and would take action against any abuse or violence against children. As described by Mahatma Gandhi, they should be encouraged to walk on the path of truth. World children’s day is not only about celebration but also recognition of the rights of children. We want to ensure that every child gets an education, good health, nutritious food and space to play in the State,” Shah said.
Susiben also appealed to the dignitaries to take a pledge to protect child rights and create a child-friendly Maharashtra.
Alpa Vora, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Maharashtra said there are multi-layered challenges in dealing with children’s issues. “Maharashtra’s rapidly urbanising landscape brings unique challenges for children on the move or living in street situations. They are more vulnerable to violence and abuse, miss out on essential services. Surge in child marriages post COVID call for measures of family strengthening and engaging with parents and communities to change mindsets. UNICEF is committed to partner with Government and Civil Society in addressing the diverse needs and rights of Maharashtra’s children,” Ms Vora said.
Smt R Vimala, Commissioner of Women & Child Development, Government of Maharashtra said “India is known to be the youngest country in the world. These children will lead the country tomorrow and we should create opportunities for their healthy growth. We should ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard and that they can participate in solving the issues that matter most to them. In doing so, we appeal to society to unite for girls’ and boys’ rights to health, education, protection and participation.”
Shri Deepak Pandey, Special Inspector of Prevention of Atrocities against Women (PAW), welcomed the children and their enthusiasm to play. “I wish every child should get the freedom to play every day because it is necessary for his/her healthy growth. Parents, teachers and schools always want to ensure a better future for our children. As a government official, I understand that we hold the authority to make laws that protect children and ensure implementation is an urgent priority. Children also rely on judges, police officers, teachers, social workers, religious leaders, health officers and media professionals, who must have full awareness of the rights of every child. The media is a big influencer on the masses and politicians alike. The media can help children present their thoughts directly to wide audiences,” Mr Pande said.