Tryst with Change: CWBC Ensures Child Rights
Olapada of Baulakani is just like any other village in Mahakalapara Block. Most of the villagers work as wage labourers. In the absence of the heads of the households, the children are often neglected, especially in matters of education. People in the village were not bothered about education. As such, the dreams, visions and aspirations of the children get buried in the by-lanes of the village. Some village elders were concerned about the negative mindset of the people and wanted to change the decaying state of education as well as turn the attitude of the people towards a progressive vision for the village. At some point of time they came to hear about the education drive of Voluntary Association for Rural Reconstruction and Appropriate Technology (VARRAT) organization from nearby villages. They requested VARRAT to also work in their village so that things can change for the better.
On the request of the villagers VARRAT-ChildFund started its activities in 2005. It focused on imparting education to the needy children through its sponsorship program. During the initial phase they started a Balwadi in the village and 31 needy children were enrolled in the sponsorship program. They also constituted Parents’ Committee and Balwadi Committee through which the eligible children were mobilized. After this mobilization all the eligible children between 3-5 years of age started going to the Balwadi. The organization then started a child club by mobilizing 6-14 year old children. It carried out awareness campaigns on health, education, and child rights in the village and motivated the parents to send their children to school.
When some degrees of awareness had spread among the villagers they came to understand about child rights issues such as immunization, school dropouts, and early marriage. However they recognized that without the help of elders it would be difficult to realize those rights. So members of the community and the child club met the ex-Ward Member Sripati Behera to form a child rights committee. He called for a meeting in the village and all the issues were discussed threadbare. All the villagers present over there unanimously selected 15 members in the committee from different categories of frontline worker, PRI member, school teacher, parents, representative of CBO, youth club and child club. The community decided that this committee would be responsible for all the issues of children such as early marriage, drop out, child labour, child trafficking, personal health & hygiene practices, child protection etc. As the committee would work for the welfare of the children so they named it as Child Well Being Committee (CWBC).
Applauding the efforts of CWBC, Sripati Behera, an active member of the committee says, “CWBC along with the youth club and child club are the three pillars of our village. They have collectively instigated several awareness campaigns on health, education and sanitation. On various occasions they have launched awareness drives focusing on child rights and child protection with the support of VARRAT-ChildFund. Due to these relentless programs all the eligible children of the village have started going to the Anganwadi and school regularly. The parents also are beginning to send their adolescent girls to college for higher education. During the cultural and traditional functions in the community, people first seek out the CWBC, youth club and the Child club for their views and valuable suggestions. These clubs are regularly participating in the decision making process and have played important role in it. Due to the intervention of Child Club and the Youth Club, the village school has been provided with Teaching Learning Materials and is used by teachers to enhance the quality of learning among children. Mid Day Meal with quality food in the school has become a regular feature.” He further adds, “Needless to say that the three village institutions are rightly taking care of Special needs children. Through the project they are consulted for financial support while selecting beneficiaries from vulnerable families for their socio economic development. They provided hand holding support, training and exposures.” Members of the child club and the youth club attended programs on life skill education, leadership quality, and participation in decision making. They have successfully induced the community people to press for demands and entitlements from government.
Pravanshu Nayak, a member of CWBC, narrates an incident of active intervention of CWBC, child club and youth club in stopping a forcible marriage of a 17 year old girl in the village. “Owing to previous enmity between Kajal Dinda and Pabana Nayak, Kajal conspired to forcibly marry off Pabana’s 17 year old daughter Sasmita (Name Changed) with Saheb (Name Changed) of Jambu village. The entire village came to a standstill as they were nowhere to be found. Sasmita’s father almost lost his mental balance. He wrote to CWBC for help. CWBC then initiated a local search operation and rescued both of them and explained to their parents the adverse effects of early marriage. Investigation found Kajal guilty and all villagers wanted to expel them from community but CWBC, child club and youth club explained that it was not wise to exclude them and that a stipulated fine would be OK. The village committee then imposed a fine on the people who plotted the whole plan. So they were saved that day and till now no further such cases have come to light in the village.”
All the three institutions have also undertaken confidence building activities for adolescent girls. One such girl Kabita is now a confident lady. She says, “Because of differential living conditions between my mother’s family and my in laws, I could not really participate and discuss in meetings. But once I became an active member of an SHG, I started taking active part in meetings and started to express my opinions frequently.”