Second Forum, South Asia Report
The second forum of the GNRC focussed on the theme ‘Our Promise to Children’. An important aspect of the deliberations was the discussions that were carried out in the regional groups. This provided space for regional review, networking and planning for collaboration on issues related to Children.
Nearly 25 participants from the South Asian Region in these deliberations. The countries represented included Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Most of the participants were associated with the GNRC from the first forum itself. Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, the GNRC Coordinator for the South Asian Region, coordinated the regional deliberations.
Chronology of Events
Day 1: A joint Asia session was held on the first day bringing together from South Asia and South East Asia. At this meeting 5 presentations from Cambodia, India, Japan, Sri Lanka and Thailand were made. These presentations supplemented with rich interventions from the audience allowed for a revisiting of various carried out by the GNRC member countries and GNRC associated activities.
Day 2: A second joint session was held on the second day where 3 presentations from Bangladesh and Japan were made. One of the presentations made by Dr. Mansoor Ahmed gave an introduction to the dimensions of ethical education. He further introduced two national experiences in this field from Korea and Bangladesh.
The first South Asian session was held on day 2. Welcoming the gathering the regional coordinator invited representatives country-wise to share their work. Ms. Farida Ali then addressed the gathering on the proposed areas of work between Unicef and GNRC.
Following this, a general discussion was held to look at how GNRC activities can be better facilitated at the South Asian regional level. The areas covered in the discussed included:
- Facilitating Structure of GNRC at the regional and country level
- Possible Thematic Areas of work at the regional and country level
- Interface with GNRC’s activities
- Communications channels and need for sharing information
- The Proposed study on ‘ Religious perspectives on Children’
Some thoughts on the follow-up:
Before breaking up for group discussions a paper with points for consideration and discussion was distributed. The points included listing of past thematic areas of work, proposed areas of follow-up work, existing GNRC structures in their countries, identification of Focal point and coordinator from each country, the areas in which the secretariat needs to assist and resources that the participating individuals or organizations could bring to GNRC
The identified areas of work included leading a review the current situation of ethics education, prepare learning materials and train teachers in ethics education, test the pilot programme and then scale it up to advocacy initiatives. They also said they would interaction with their other South Asian colleagues. They also see as one of the main outputs of this initiative the organic evolution of a faith based broad alliance for children.
An initial ‘ convening group’ has been set up with the 3 participants attending the current 2nd forum of the GNRC. Mr. K. R. Alam. will be the coordinator of the group and the Dhaka Ahsania Mission as the focal point.
The India group identified Ethics education for Children and the World Fit for Children as the broad thematic areas for work. It was also decided that any creative initiative for children from the grassroots initiated by one or more member organizations can also form part of the collective work of GNRC- India’s work.
Recognizing the size of the country two working groups one in the south and north has been set with the current 2nd forum participants, each served by a coordinator Mr. Sunderesan for the south and Ms. Razia Ismail/ Ms. Farida Vahidi from the north. Mr. Sunderesan in touch will be the country coordinator with Shanti Ashram providing the secretarial base. For special projects both coordinators would help.
The Nepal group identified Ethical Education, Education for all, the World fit for Children, Child labour and Children in Crisis as its main thematic areas. They have decided to have a national consultation of former and present GNRC participants along with others working for children. This consultation it was hoped will give a more concrete structure to GNRC Nepal as well as its activities.
CWIN will serve as the focal point in the initial stages with Mr. Biren Bangdel as the coordinator.
The Pakistan group has chosen as its thematic areas of work Ethics Education, Inter-faith dialogue. Public Awareness Initiative, South Asian Learning Initiatives and Child led activities.
A working structure from the current Pakistan participants has been set up with Mr. Marwat as the chairperson, Mr. Faroouqi as the vice chairperson and Mr. Iqbal as the secretary. The secretary has been chosen to serve as the country coordinator.
The chosen thematic areas of work were Ethics education, initiating of interfaith dialogue particularly in the context of Maldives being declared an Islamic state and its stand on other religions, Teachers training, Child led activities.
The Maldivian delegation also said that would have a national consultation when they returned after which the GNRC country structure would be firmed up. Ms. Fathmath Afiya would be the country coordinator with Care Society. As the focal point.
- Sri Lanka
The thematic areas identified for action include Rights for children, Children’s Resource Centres and Children’s interfaith dialogue. The children will be served in two age groups 6-13 and teenagers ( 13-17). Specific ethics education initiative will be launched for the above two age groups besides also for the early childhood development initiatives.
Sarvodaya will serves as the focal point for GNRC and also host the regional secretariat coordinated by Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne.
Concerns and Requests to the secretariat:
- Information sharing about GNRC activities at the Global and regional level
- Communication to be more frequent and regular. It was asked that an e-mail update be given every month and that a regional annual report be compiled by the secretariat
- Expertise be provided both technical and organizational as the GNRC structures firm up in the South Asian Region
- An Annual meeting be organized by the secretariat with the Country coordinators and that the meeting be held in rotation in the different South Asian countries
- Financial support be provided for coordinating work at the country level
- Explorations are also made of initiatives that can be started at the South Asian level.
Chronology of Events
The current forum provided the basis for a participatory consultation at the South Asian level. It has allowed for the initiation of GNRC activities both organizational and work for children at the South Asian level as well as at the country level. Sharing of ideas, experience and plans for future activities for and with children was the highlight of the consultation. We hope to build upon the momentum generated here and strengthen the GNRC initiatives for Children at the Global level. ‘Our Promise to Children’ for a better world will be our inspiration for constructive collaboration and work.
Annexure 1 | Source: State of the World’s Children Report, 2004