As schools are closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, digital learning has emerged as a remote learning opportunity for students across India, but still there are millions of children who are deprived from digital learning because of lack of internet connectivity and other resources.
To address this issue, Lalita Duhariya, who leads the Child Friendly Village program’s National Bal Maha Panchayat/National Children’s Parliament), carried out a signature campaign demanding continuity of education. The National Children’s Parliament, convened by the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, consisting of members of Children’s Councils from Child Friendly Villages (CFVs) across 6 states in India. The CFVs are a unique preventive model of youth empowerment and village development that protects children from trafficking, child labor, and child marriage by ensuring that children themselves have a voice and role in local governance. As part of CFVs, children democratically elected a Bal Panchayat (children’s council) whereby they can participate in the decision-making process and work to ensure every child is free, safe, healthy and educated. Under Lalita’s leadership, a total of 15,267 signatures were collected across Child Friendly Villages in 6 states and the letters were sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.
During the Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit in September, on behalf of millions of children, Lalita raised the issue of how continuity of education impacts children who reside in the most remote parts of the country, with India’s Union Minister of Women and Child Development and Union Minister of Textiles, Smriti Irani. In her remarks, she stated:
“I am a sixteen-year-old girl from an underprivileged community, and I have been working relentlessly towards the protection of children during the pandemic so that the Councils’ commitment towards zero tolerance against child labor is not compromised. But despite being part of the government and the corporate sector, you all are not using your privilege and power to the advantage of the marginalized children… Today I want to know from all of you, what has your work done for us? Why do you want to put all of our efforts, our rights, our futures in the dark…? During this pandemic, children’s education is affected the most and I want the government to do something.”
Union Minister Irani acknowledged this demand of children and ensured the access to digital technology for all and the need for community radio to play a major role in imparting education in villages.
Ms. Lalita Duhariya, a 16-year-old girl from Rajasthan, India, is the President of the country’s National Bal Maha Panchayat/National Children’s Parliament, convened by KSCF. She is an advocate for child rights and is recognized for combatting issues related to untouchability and caste-based discrimination in India. Through her efforts, she has also eliminated culturally accepted forms of exploitation against children such as child labor and child marriage in her village. She has been awarded the “Reebok Fit to Fight” Award. She was also selected as the Ashoka Youth Changemaker for being a dynamic youth leader in the field of child rights. Today she is a student in senior high school and aspires to become a doctor. Lalita recently participated in the 2020 Laureates and Leaders Fair Share for Children Summit. Full video can be found here.