Children’s Forum: Discussing issues and making officials accountable
To help children exercise their rights and ensure meaningful participation Save the Children with support from KIRDARC Nepal initiated “Bal Kachahari” or Children’s forum in 2016. Children’s forum is a concept replicated from age long traditional practice of Karnali region in Nepal. Conventionally, when people were abused, exploited or had problems a community assembly was called where influential figures were present. They would address the problems and discuss on ways it could be solved.
Similarly, children’s forum has been initiated in Kalikot in the high hills of Nepal. A common ground, where children can voice their issues and questions that affect their lives in the presence of leading figures from their community who can address their issue and find appropriate solutions.
Children proactively use this forum to discuss about their rights, develop child friendly guidelines and plans. They also collect funds within their community that is used to advocate for accountability of stakeholders and implementation of those plans and guidelines at the local level. Their advocacy further focuses on making the governmental and non-governmental agencies working in children’s sector to be more sensitive and compel them to create an environment where their voices are heard.
The children’s forum has an inclusive approach where it brings children of all ages, ethnicity and gender in one setting. The gathering is organized at a local level in the presence of representatives from Ward, Rural Municipality and Municipality – the most powerful according to the federal government of Nepal. One week prior to the event child club networks and Village Child Protection Committee sit together to identify the latest issues concerning children and people who should be invited.
Once the date and place for the event is finalized invitation is sent out to all stakeholders, agencies who work for children, child right activists, child clubs, youth clubs, children, parents, teachers, school management committee and representatives of the community. They also invite the local media to ensure their voice and issues reach a wider audience.
During the event children step forward to critically discuss and question the stakeholders about issues that directly hamper their development and growth such as child marriage, chhaupadi (exclusion of girls and women during menstruation), sexual abuse and exploitation. Issues such as corporal punishment, gender exclusion, irregularity of teachers and students in school, quality learning environment, and provision of scholarships in schools for students are also discussed elaborately. In addition, children also question the representatives about the implementation of budget allocated for children and meaningful participation of children.
This platform acts as a bridge between the children and the service providers. It helps children voice their issues while helping the local representatives understand their concerns and act accordingly. It also helps create awareness within the community about children’s issues. Most importantly it gives children the opportunity to make stakeholders such as policy makes, local officials, non-governmental organization and media accountable.
Child club networks and child protection committee ask the representatives to make commitments on such issues and follow-up on their commitments regularly. This forum has also strengthened the children’s ability to voice their issues and put forward their questions in front of officials who are considered powerful.
Written by Bale BK, Project Officer- Child Rights Goverance & Child Protection