We say that the children are the future and that a truly developed nation is one that ensures the well-being, protection and care of our children.  However, as highlighted by many youth, like the young climate activist from Sweden, Greta Thunberg, perhaps we are not doing a good enough job of listening or considering the future of our children. These movements show how children do have power and they can be a strong force for change if a country, or the world, does not seriously consider their future. As adults, leaders, family member or community members, we need to stand with these young people and support them because they need that also.

While issues like climate change affect everyone, children in many developing countries are also dealing with other critical issues, such as: lack of basics like food, shelter, health, education and protection against discrimination. In order to safeguard children’s basic rights, the UN General Assembly declared November 20 as International Children’s Day in 1954. Later the UN encouraged nations to choose their own date for children’s day. Today, many countries around the world celebrate Children’s Day on different dates with various programs related to children’s welfare with talks, discussions, sports, music and different fun activities. In Nepal, Children’s Day is celebrated as Bal Diwas, which is celebrated on September 15. Many schools across the country celebrated Children’s Day with various programs for or about the children, and in our LitClub Shikharapur, we wanted to channel the energy of children activists to highlight the power of children to give them room to talk about what matters to them.

20 LitClub members, mentors and Rukmini staff took part in the program, which was led by two youth LitClub members, Pranistha and Krisha. The program consisted of speeches by the children on issues of basic rights as well as poem recitals by the girls on similar topics. It was great to have the girls speak up about their own issues in a powerful way. Alisha Tamang shared a poem related to children. Sajina spoke about children’s basic right. She said that She explained the basic rights of children as ‘Right to food, health and nourishment, shelter, clothes, good environment, education and the right to name and country”.

In order to balance the seriousness of the topic with fun, we also had dance, singing and cake. Rimisha and her team performed dance, Pema and Unisha sang a song.

The Foundation’s Executive Director, Usha Adhikari, said that children are the pillars of a nation and are the future leaders who will be responsible to develop the country. If we assume that they are responsible for this, we have to do everything that we can to ensure that all of their basic needs at least needs to be met. They deserve an access to a good education and not just education, and the government needs to ensure that basic rights like food, shelter, health and well-being are provided for.

Sanskriti Bisunke and her team performed a short drama about the discrimination that exists in families between son and a daughter. In this drama, a family shows love and care to their son and sends their daughter to town to work as a servant. While this was a dramatization, they tried to show how discrimination still exists between boys and girls in the society even today.

Understanding and tackling this type of discrimination is not easy. We understand that parents who have little to no means must make difficult decisions, and it is the economic condition and widespread illiteracy among the parents that is the biggest driving force. However, the only way to fight back is through education and to speak up on behalf of all children, especially girls who have been historically discriminated against the most. To be able to talk about such difficult issues and to have the children speak up on such matters is a great tribute to the power of education, literacy and the great work done by mentors and teachers. If the children really are the future, we must invest everything that we can to ensure that it is a good future for them because it is the future of us all.

The program came to a conclusion after cutting a cake to celebrate Children’s Day 2019. It was a great day to show that children can advocate for themselves, but they also have us to stand with them and support them.

About Laxmi Aryal

Laxmi was the first female in her family to receive an education. While the education she received was limited, she was able to make the best of it and became the first person from her family and village to complete high school, undergraduate studies and eventually a Masters degree. She eventually earned a Masters Degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Public Policy. Hers is an inspirational story that the Rukmini Foundation hopes to replicate. She serves as an inspiration for the foundation and its leadership.
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