GNRC 4th Forum Consultation with Children & Young people on Poverty Solutions, India, February 2012

Among the objectives of the consultation session: to provide a space for children and young people to acknowledge the way poverty is affecting children in their community, to facilitate the children and young people dialogue regarding challenges faced by them, to collate ideas for action to change the situation, to document the experience from the consultation.

Some learning points from the India Consultation

First step: Many Children said they had not dealt with Poverty as a group and shared their experiences, this was the first time they did so and appreciated the opportunity.
Lack of trust filled space: Children living in poverty they felt stigmatized. A neutral space such as this either for sharing & discussion or for cooperation & action was valuable as it was filled with trust and love.
Comparison of living standards, critical thinking: We ensured diversity of participants. This allowed for discussion, debate & critical thinking amongst children living in poverty as well as privilege.
Poverty Solutions: Children spoke a lot about what they can do by themselves, with others, this prompting & pro-activity was expressed as resolutions & actionable ideas by children themselves ranging from Shramadaan (gift of labour) to mobilization of resources.

Outcomes of the consultation

Meaning of poverty to the Children
The two issues children recalled as soon as poverty was mentioned was HUNGER & people begging for help

And how do they experience it?
Some said they have experienced it directly as they came from families below poverty line, some said they experienced it temporarily when they undertook voluntary fasts. Some said they experiences it indirectly while observing their friends or interacting with poor families.

How is poverty present/experienced by children in their local context?
Again hunger & deprivation was constantly refereed to as they identified local situations affected by poverty…one eg : the number of children in government schools whose only full  meal is the mid day noon meal provided by the government.

Child rights & needs: what basic rights are they enjoying and which they are not?
The common rights identified enjoyed by children as identified by the participants include : right to play, right to opinion, right to food, right to education, care of disabled children
The rights they thought were violated by:
Hunger, violence against children, child marriage, lack of protection & secure environment.

What are the reasons for this situation?
Poverty, Illiteracy , Corruption, high risk behavior including drinking, addictive substances, Apathy & lack of enthusiasm, harmful cultural practices like dowry, misplaced priorities.

Why are there children suffering from poverty?
Because they are born into poor families, societal situations and lack of care, lack of awareness amongst parents on health & education, social stigma.

What needs to happen for poverty to end?
Children in Poverty have to provide access to quality education & attention to prevent drop outs, child labour, child marriage, health care and above all have to provide them with a loving & dignified environment.

What do children wish to see happening to change the situation?
A hunger free world, a world where children can study & be free of poverty, where young people will not be in conflict with law as well be not sexually exploited.
The children wish to be involved in affairs of the family and to be supported when they want to do something.

What can Children do for that change to happen?
They want to undertake initiatives of their own for the community, they hope to improve financial literacy & savings amongst themselves,   they will make other children more aware about the importance of education and do concrete interventions like the food bank, etc.

Quotes from participants & facilitators

“I felt hunger only when I fasted for a social cause and understood the pain of people in poverty. When I grow up I will be a doctor and serve the poor.” – Ms.Keerthana, 13yrs old
We collected rice for those in poverty especially those living with HIV/AIDS. We, as a group of children are working towards such solution for poverty .if more children elsewhere do the same, we can address poverty effectively. – Mr.Arunkumar, 14yrs   

“Poverty is a cycle, where it leads to itself” – Mr. Karthikraja 13yrs old

“In our village poverty causes school dropouts, child labour, early marriage and forces people into stealing. Now I want to find the solution for this situation” -Ms.Nivedhita, 14yrs

“Bringing awareness on poverty to children and providing a platform for children from different section of the society to share each others experiences and ideas will definitely  change their thinking process positively,”- Ms. Sakthi, Volunteer

“Poverty is not the situation of the people, but it’s the life they face” -Mr.Ganesh, Intern from Nagaland

“I am able to understand the different faces and different levels of poverty faced by children. From the consultation,  I also understood the solutions is not only  in the hands of others but it is within us “-Ms.Vidhya, PhD Scholar

“In today’s situation, children are not given opportunity to get involved in the discussion on poverty. But if they are given such a chance, there is no doubt that they can provide relevant solutions to poverty” -Mr.G.Vijayaragavan, Facilitator

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