Standing at a current population of 1.21 billion, India is the second most populous and seventh-most extensive country in the world. India also has the world’s largest adolescent population i.e. 253 million and as per stats, every fifth person is between the age group of 10-19 years.
Another set of stats has shown that the age distribution in the country stands at about 26.16% of the population comprises those who belong to the year category of 0-14; 67.27% belong to the age group 15-64 and the rest of 6.57% is above the age of 65. However, despite the fact that India has achieved remarkable progress in terms of economic growth, with an average of 7.3% over the past five years, India still faces a couple of prime issues that call for immediate attention.
The issues of poverty, inequality, child labor, forced begging, lack of child education, violation of child’s rights, child trafficking and more are still prevalent in the country. Several NGOs in India have been founded with the sole motive of protecting these young ones.
This inequality gets reflected and becomes the reason for low human development attainments in countries having the most marginalized groups including caste issues, tribal and rural populations, women, transgendered people living with HIV and migrants and this indirectly affects the children in the bigger picture. Although India has made significant progress in addressing poverty, access to education, and HIV levels, the results have mainly been uneven and up to a great extent un-uniform.
Some portions of children in India continue to face some of the harshest conditions anywhere in the world. And, here’s how NGOs step in to help, protect and safeguard children’s rights in India.
Current status of Children’s Rights:
There are approximately 472 million children in India who are under the age of 18, i.e. they represent almost 39% of our country’s total population, from which 29% of that comprises children between the ages of 0 to 6 years. Moreover, 73% of children in India live in rural areas and quite a few of them have limited access to fundamental needs such as nutrition, healthcare, education, and shelter. And this high percentage of children dwelling in rural areas often becomes the cause of negative repressions in terms of children accessing fundamental rights. As per the Children’s Rights Act, 2005 (amended in 2006), has helped to create an impact in promoting children’s rights in India.
This Act focuses on eliminating any sort of child labor and protecting young children and people. However, despite such laws existing in the country, children still continue to face challenges in attaining these rights, particularly those related to access to education, forced labor, and child marriage.
NGOs address the critical needs and work towards creating happier and healthier childhoods for underprivileged
Here are 5 ways how NGOs address to promote and safeguard children’s rights in India –
#1: Secure “Right to Education” –
A quality education shapes an individual, not only does it build knowledge, but it also brings out the capabilities, learn lifelong skills and establishes self-values and develops creative, social, sound judgment and rational emotional abilities. Given the fact that only 27% of Indian children live in urban areas and an overwhelming 73% live in rural areas, the need for imparting education becomes essential to all.
Accessing education by all still remains quite a problematic one and serves as a key barrier to realizing children’s rights here. As the country continues to have the largest number of illiterate people in the world i.e. 287 million adults, the largest population globally, and 37% population of the world’s total. However, it has remained high as even in education people are still facing discrimination. Discriminations related to caste and gender, belittles the inspiration to pursue knowledge and such unequal distribution of education further marginalizes children, especially those living in rural areas.
Education becomes an important part of an individual to help them develop their personality and improve their critical thinking and problem-solving traits. NGOs help these children to continue and complete their education without discriminating against them on the basis of their gender, caste or socioeconomic status. Generally, 80% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 3, i.e. it becomes the appropriate age for them to develop the foundation of their future learning abilities.
Now, those children following the age of 3 till 6 are encouraged to go to school to receive their primary education and eventually when they develop an interest in learning new things and gaining new skills, they are motivated further to complete their education properly. But, the Indian government has come up with solutions to allow all Indians, young or old, to benefit from high-quality education in order to fight against and eradicate illiteracy.
#2: Secure “Right to Health and Nutrition” –
Addressing and providing access to health and proper nutrition is a key indicator of attaining children’s rights. As per stats, nearly 1 million children, in India, die under the age of five, an estimated 39 deaths per 1,000 live births. Women and children, especially in rural areas suffer a greater degree of disadvantages related to accessing health services such as maternal and newborn coverage. Studies have also shown that only 1 out of 3 Indian women benefit from regular monitoring of their pregnancy. And the situation becomes gruesome when the figures of rural areas are added to the picture. In rural areas, hardly 37% of births are assisted by qualified health personnel and the rest other still depends on primitive ways.
India has at times even recorded such drastic scenarios that the government started a large awareness campaign in order to educate the population about the importance of a varied and balanced diet
Receiving quality primary healthcare and a proper amount of nutrition becomes essential for a child’s physical, mental and cognitive development. Having essential nutrition timely, regularly and adequately is of crucial importance from the time of conception itself to avoid long-term and in some cases, irreversible damage to the child’s health.
NGOs and those volunteering for NGOs help in ensuring that no child should suffer from malnutrition or poor health irrespective of their socioeconomic background and that mothers are taken care of properly as well. Proper and timely care for expectant as well as lactating mothers is crucial for a child’s healthy development and to bring down the numbers in India’s infant mortality rate (IMR), child mortality rate (CMR) and maternal mortality rate (MMR). Receiving proper and quality prenatal care considerably reduces the risk of pregnancy complications, institutional deliveries that aid healthy live births and regular postnatal check-ups that encourage breastfeeding are key areas of intervention. Also, regularly monitoring the growth and overall health of children till the age of 6 years is imperative to ensure healthier childhoods.
NGOs tend to practice such matters and address gender discrimination to enable equitable access to primary healthcare and ensure the completion of immunization to aid and prevent certain critical decisions. Such efforts have the potential to change behaviors and attitudes on the issues of children’s health and nutrition is most effective when introduced early.
#3: Secure “Right to life” –
According to the Indian Constitution (1950) “everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of persons”, and that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty”. However, enshrined in the constitution of our country, this fundamental right in the areas of life, survival, and child development remains an area of concern in India.
Hundreds and thousands of children lose their lives each day due to numerous reasons such as poverty, female infanticide, malnutrition, domestic violence, child abuse and even due to forced marriages. One of the major threats to Indian children’s rights is solely due to female infanticide and its prevalent practice in certain areas of the country. As a matter of fact, every single day, thousands of small Indian girls either die before being born (feticide or due to forced abortion) or lose their lives because they are not desired or accepted by their families (female infanticide). Several other factors such as the pressure of dowry and education contribute to the practice of female infanticides as they are considered “an unaffordable economic burden”.
The reality is buried even deeper in the ice and iron where 117 million girls demographically go missing due to selective sex abortions, and in India, every minute, 9 abortions of female fetuses will take place. Following these stats brings furthermore concerning the fact that as a result of sex-abortions India ranked number four among countries with the most skewed sex ratio at 112 males for every 100 females.
NGOs step in to conduct campaigns against such brutal matters, raise awareness, and provide needful materials, and even with the help of local administration and authorities raise their voices against the crimes to help those affected. Conducting programs, offering assistance by going door-to-door, encouraging health and supporting the needs of NGOs and those who volunteer for NGOs helped transform the lives of lakhs of children.
#4: Secure “Safety and Protection” –
Maslow’s theory of need pyramid states that every individual’s safety and protection needs must be met as a basic rule. As we discussed earlier that almost a major portion i.e. 73% of children dwell in rural areas whereas only 27% of them get the privilege of residing in an urban area makes this fact exceedingly overwhelming.
Every child as a citizen and as per the children’s rights in India has the right to be protected from neglect, exploitation, abuse and violence. Children have been provided with the right to be protected from any incident of abuse of any sort, exploitation, trafficking, commercial social exploitation, and several other similar harmful practices done against them.
However, surveys have thrown light on the fact that more than 69% of children aged 5 to 18 years old are victims of abuse and the rest face emotional humiliation and violence every day. And more than half of such abuses are committed by a close group of people who have a relationship of confidence and authority with the child. According to another study, around 65% of school-going children have faced corporal punishment by the academic staff.
A contributing factor to the neglect of children is the result of cultural values which do not have high esteem and standing for the words and opinions of children. As such, no Indian legislation specifically mentions this right, and education focuses on the respect children must show to adults.
To fully realize children’s right to protection, it is important to adopt a different attitude towards children and their needs. It is also necessary to invest in educating and training caregivers on children’s fundamental right to protection, and prosecuting those who neglect it.
Moreover, in our society children are pressured to do well and are expected to meet unrealistic standards beyond their own capability. And due to such occurrences, they are vulnerable to neglect, violence and abuse and exposed to unsafe negative environments that in turn impact physical, emotional, mental and social development of the child and at often times the damage is left permanent.
NGOs prevent such horrendous happenings by increasing awareness among society to eliminate the practices of abuse, child labour, child marriage, neglect, and violence and prevent the conduct of child trafficking while addressing chronic poverty, social exclusion and so on. Also, simultaneously ensuring that children go to school instead of work and child marriages are put to stop.
#5: Secure “Right to Identity” –
Although equally important the right identity and registration of children go unnoticed at times. India currently suffers from one of the highest non-registration rates for children in the world.
The country has only 41% of its birth registered and there also exists a huge urban-rural difference in registration. Almost 59% of urban children under five being registered versus only 35% in rural areas bring out a prominent difference, and this becomes a serious issue as it deprives several deserving children of their rights of receiving proper protection and treatment as they should.
NGOs offer intervention and educate people about the same. They put emphasis on the importance of such matters and ensure that children are not deprived of any of their deserving privileges.
Almost every citizen in the country at some point in time, in some way, comes across clear evidence of child rights violations in their lives and encourages it by ignoring it. The fight for child rights in India isn’t a new one and India still has a long way to go before completely eradicating such issues. However, with a few changes, we can make a big difference. NGOs address those needs and take steps towards resolving those matters by raising their voice with active participation to defend the weak and helpless children who hold the key to a great future in the hollow of their hands.
NGOs in India have been working for underprivileged children and a number of child development NGOs take the following steps to make a change –
- Eliminating child labour
- Encouraging education and enrolment
- Imparting knowledge on child health and the need of saving and protecting the girl child
- Offer access to education and essential services to families to prevent child slavery and dropout rates
- Teach children about the benefits and importance of self-growth and self-rights
- Support scholarships and promote a healthy environment that does not discriminate on gender, caste or socioeconomic background
- Offer access to proper nutrition
- Promoting mental health