‘We don’t vote, but we hear our voices,’ Assam children tell parties before the polls
As a resident of Majuli, the world’s largest river island, 16-year-old Kuldeep Narayan Bora has witnessed the devastation that erosion can cause to the people who live there. Now the adolescent wants those in power to know the problem and find a permanent solution.
“I have seen my friends lose their homes to erosion. They were forced to live in tents for months together with their livestock. I want the government to give adequate compensation to those affected, ”said the Class 10 student who wants to become an audio engineer.
Kuldeep is not alone. Ten other children like him from across Assam are currently meeting in Guwahati to write a manifesto, which will include the problems children face and suggest recommendations.
The children will meet with Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on November 20 on the occasion of World Children’s Day and deliver their manifesto to him. They will also meet with the leaders of the political parties so that their recommendations are included in the party manifestos for the assembly elections to be held in March-April next year.
The effort is part of a campaign called NINEISMINE by PRATYeK, a Delhi-based organization, which recognizes children as the main stakeholders of society and helps them understand their rights so that they can engage with policymakers to ensure the inclusion and implementation of issues related to children.
Rahul Barman, 17, from Tamulmur in Baksa district wants clean classrooms, toilets and clean water in all schools. Rimjhim Saikia, 13, with disabilities, wants special schools and special buses for people like her.
“My parents work in a tea garden. But their wages are very low and it is not enough to support the whole family. I want the government to set up a factory near me where my parents can work and earn a decent amount, ”said Aditya Kanu, 15, from the Derby tea farm in Cachar district.
Tulsimoni Ramchiary, 14, lost her mother within days of her birth and her father abandoned her shortly after. She wants the government to ensure that all girls have the same opportunities in all fields.
“We are not old enough to vote now, but we will be able to do so in a few years. Our problems are not highlighted or neglected. Through this manifesto, we want to make them aware of those who matter and hold them accountable, ”said Rahul.
More than 4,000 children from across Assam participated in the UNICEF-supported effort. In addition to preparing the manifesto, the children, some of whom have come to Guwahati for the first time, are also learning skills such as public speaking, audio and video recording, etc. during your stay.
“This is an initiative where young people advocate for change based on their ambitions, ideas and dreams centered on their own experiences and situations,” said Steve Rocha, director of PRATYeK.
“Our goal is also to hold the government to account for its promises and to try to influence policy. As Assam is heading for the elections, we decided to let the children prepare a manifesto and hand it over to the political parties before they (the parties) write their own manifestos, ”he added.