Towards building a ‘Nagaland of Children’
DIMAPUR, OCTOBER 14
Child Rights activists have expressed serious concern over the fact that Nagaland, with nearly half of its population (45%) still categorized as children, has failed to “adequately” promote and protect the enshrined rights of the latter.
These questions, and more concerns in relation to Child Rights in Nagaland, came into focus on the opening day of a 3-day State level Workshop on promotion, protection and planning on rights of children which got underway here today in Dimapur.
Organized by the Nagaland Alliance for Children and Women Rights, the opening session saw as many as five resource persons – Assistant Labour Commissioner, Imlisashi, ADC Dimapur, Elizabeth Ngullie, UNICEF chief, Dr Tushar Rane, IACR convener, Razia Ismail and member of State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Deithono Nakhro – share their opinions on the subject.
Nakhro, former editor of Eastern Mirror, was forthright with her assessment that children’s rights continue to be inadequately protected and addressed in our State. “The issue of protection and promotion of the rights and interests of children has been in sharp focus in recent times, yet we find abuse and exploitation of children and various other violations of their rights not only still happening all around us but increasing at alarming levels”, she noted.
Echoing similar observations, the convener of IACR, Razia Ismail, reminded the audience that the perceptions “of reality of the real world” by a child is quite different to that of “ours” (adults).
She regretted that people still tend to perceive and treat children as an “almost person” despite explicit provisions in the Indian Constitution that recognizes children as the supreme asset of the nation.
While expounding on ones’ constitutional duty to protect the rights of a child, Razia shared that the central idea was not in “caring for the child” but rather in “caring about the child.”
Again, this view was complemented by Nakhro. “Children are often voiceless in mainstream society and the relative powerlessness of children makes the protection of their rights all the more important,” she said.
Too many children are victims of trafficking, sexual and physical abuse, exploitation and pornography. In fact, one child victim is one too many, she remarked.
“Now when we come to child pornography and pornography in general, it is a subject that is still not talked about much in our context. But with the rise of internet usage in this day and age, this is a menace that we cannot afford to ignore. Children are particularly vulnerable online, since they are often there without guidance from parents, care-givers or teachers” Nakhro added.
The consensus among the resource persons was that any effort to ensure the protection of the rights of children must involve all stakeholders. As put by ADC Dimapur, Elizabeth Ngullie, “It is not an issue that concerns only the NGOs but also the church, the lawmakers, the administration and the police.”
The ADC also felt that it was not only a question of the children knowing their own rights. “Most importantly, do we know their rights?” she wondered.
Assistant Labour Commissioner, Imlisashi also shared that despite labour laws prohibiting children less than 14 years of age from any of physical work/labour “we see so many children doing the same.”
And this aspect was succinctly summed up by Razia Ismail when she told the workshop that the rights of children in Nagaland mean that of every single child in Nagaland. “It is not just about the children in your family or the children whose roots are here. It means every child who is living in Nagaland.”