The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) outlines human rights of children (those aged below 18), which cover their rights to survival, protection, participation, and development. In order to comply with UNCRC’s legally binding provisions within the state, Government of Odisha (GoO) in 2010, created post of State Commissioner for Protection of Child Rights. Sustainable Development Goals too make child rights salient with Target 16.2 calling for ending violence against children. Yet, there is rampant violation of rights and continuing abuse of children in Odisha. National Crime Records Bureau data reveals state has 4th worst record of sexual crimes against children, NFHS-4 data show over 1 in 5 women still get married before turning 18, 37 % migrants in the state are children, child trafficking rose 44 % in 2016, and while exact figures are debated, significant number of children remain out of school.
Clearly, a paradigm shift is needed to ensure Odisha’s children grow in a healthy, safe, and free milieu that enables their comprehensive development. Child Friendly Accountability (CFA) ensures child rights and reduces violence against children by providing children (and the community) knowledge about their legally enforceable rights and about what duty bearers in child protection system should do to uphold these. It enables children and their representatives to engage in an informed dialogue with authorities, whose failure to uphold child rights obligations, allows the former to identify a recourse action or to help government improve its ability to meet obligations. This makes it an empowering mechanism and a process for positive change.
Various stakeholders need to discuss ways to improve child protection system, through institutional strengthening, and mainstreaming CFA, at the local, regional and national level.
- What are major impediments for protection of child rights in Odisha?
- How can CFA be integrated at various levels of administration in Odisha? Which mechanisms and pathways can help create an active grievance redressal system?
- What models from other states within India, or other countries, can Odisha adapt to ensure a more comprehensive and robust child friendly environment in the state?
- How can community role in child protection be enhanced and made more effective?
- What can help strengthen state level collaboration and joint campaigning of interested stakeholders to reduce child abuse and violence?
- How can child protection and safety be assessed in family, community, schools, hostels etc to intervene in time or to make amends before it is too late? What can serve as early warning mechanisms?