Mumbai, October 06, 2017: In line with the global commitments to leave no one behind while advancing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda as well as the Government of India’s focus on inclusion and ‘putting the last child first’, Plan India has been actively supporting children’s rights with a special emphasis on equality for girls, through its campaign – Plan For Every Child (P4EC), launched in 2016.
As part of this year’s efforts, Plan India, in collaboration with its technical partner Pravah, is organising state-level debatathons, where youth from various parts of the country will discuss gender issues and challenges, ideas for bringing about gender transformative changes and debate on possible solutions to address the issues. Suggestions and deliberations from these state level youth debates will be translated into state youth charters, which will be presented at the National P4EC Conference, to be held from November 1-3, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, where the winners will come together to debate on the solutions at the grand finale.
The first edition of this State Debatathon was organised in Mumbai from October 03-05, 2017, where 23 participants in the 18-24 age group from various colleges and universities engaged in the debatathons to discuss on the prioritised issues with a focus on possible solutions. At the end of the debate, the participants put together a State Youth Charter with recommendations for empowering girls and improving their safety, which was presented to Shri. Vijay Jadhav, Member of Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of Maharashtra.
To ensure that no girl is left behind, the Mumbai Chapter of the Charter made the following recommendations:
- Invest in empowering young girls by creating comprehensive awareness programmes about girl rights, institutionalise and strengthen support mechanisms and groups, appoint counsellors to advise girls on health-related issues, use technology to reach the excluded girls and use engagement activities such as plays for information sharing and discussion.
- Include boys and men in the discussion by implementing community-based gender sensitisation programmes, and facilitate open dialogues on the issues of sexual offences.
- Educate and empower families by organising counselling sessions on their role in the protection and empowerment of girls, impart knowledge about the available schemes for women and their associated benefits, and organise parent-teacher meetings to discuss the issues faced by girls.
- Modify the existing education curriculum to incorporate gender-specific issues, awareness about girls in difficult circumstances, life skills for sustainable livelihood, and make education accessible through mobile schools.
- Decrease student dropout rates by introducing flexible timings for girls and appointing designated officials for reporting issues faced by girls.
- Develop infrastructure and facilities such as hostels, health centres, adequate toilets, CCTV and other facilities, to ensure the health and safety of girls, and monitor the progress through regular audits.
Commenting on this initiative, Ms. Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director Plan India, said, “For nearly four decades, Plan India has provided spaces for youth to continuously engage, inform and govern programmes implemented in their communities. They raise their voice to influence different stakeholders on issues that affect them and the lives of children. This initiative aims to also engage youth outside our programme areas, so that they participate in larger discourse, raise awareness and advocate for girls’ rights.”
Subsequent editions of the debatathons will be organised in others States including Bihar and Jharkhand (Patna: October 09-11); Assam, covering the North East States (Guwahati: October 14-16); Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (Hyderabad: October 14-16) and Delhi, covering the States adjoining the National Capital Region (October 23-25).
The State Debatathons will culminate into the National P4EC Conference, which will bring forth voices of 200 youth from across the country. The Conference will focus specifically on girls in marginalised, excluded and vulnerable situations, and will present the interface of inclusion, access and opportunities for girls within the marginalised groups.