Bal Panchayat (children’s parliament) is an idea to bring the children together to strengthen their voice and leadership, to provide a podium where they can reach the adult duty bearer and change-agents in order to prompt their attention towards issues which affect children directly or indirectly. The motive behind forming and facilitating Bal panchayat is to promote the right of participation so that children can speak the unspoken and their unheard voices may be heard.
The Center for Integrated Development (CID) runs non-formal education (NFE) centers for child laborers where children are provided with education. However, CID believes that education, though important, is not enough to help the children concerned, and hence has created Bal Panchayats. In these Bal Panchayats, children practice the right of participation by expressing their view on issues that affect them and by making plans on how to go about resolving these issues.
Not only the children of NFE centers but also children from formal schools and from within the locality are encouraged to form a part of the Bal Panchayats where they can present relevant issues before their teachers, family and community.
Forming a Bal Panchayat
All the children from the non-formal education centres and locality are brought together and they are explained to about the importance and benefit of being united. Following this, thechildren who want to participate in the Bal panchayat come together in a meeting where the name of Bal panchayat is decided by the children and the children are informed about the working core group. The children decide how many will be in the working core group and the members of the working core group is decided by election. Children who want to become part of the committee address the Bal panchayat and explain how they are suitable candidate, election is done under the supervision of an adult representative of CID.to form a Bal Panchayat in schools, permission is sought from the school authority.
Every Bal panchayat is oriented on leadership, team work, unity and is sensitized on issues related to them and other social issues. A monthly Bal panchayat meeting is organizedby CID on the date decided by the Bal Panchayat. All the Bal panchayats of different localities are brought together and a district Bal Panchayat and working core group are formed by election. The district Bal panchayat conducts quarterly meetings.
What do they do?
In the quarterly meeting of the Bal panchayat, members discuss about the issues they are facing in their area and then they discuss how these can be addressed. They also seek suggestions from members as well as from the adult facilitator present in the meeting. After discussions they prepare an action plan for the same and in further meetings they plan for follow up.
During events such as World Day against Child Labor, National Anti Child Labor Day, World Environment Day and others; Bal panchayat organize rallies, human chain etc to spread awareness about relevant issues. For example, on World Environment Day, Bal panchayat organized tree planting, they also participated in the Pulse Polio Campaign which has helped in increasing the coverage of campaign.
Work That Counts
Bal panchayat stands out as a great example of providing opportunities to children to practice their right of participation, it also provides children the opportunity to facilitate change. Following are examples of their work:
- In Kishanbagh slum there were no primary schools and children had to go very far or sometimes they wouldn’t even join school due to the distance. Bal panchayat discussed the issue and planned to work on resolving the issue. They engaged with the municipal corporation, education department, and also mobilized the community to help them in the process and advocacy work. As a result, Kishanbagh got a primary school. This success was also covered by the print media.
- In Noorganj area, water taps were broken and water was going waste. The issue was discussed by Balpanchayat and they mobilized the local community to save water and all the taps were repaired by the community itself.
- In Noorganj, street dogs presented a big problem, children were being bitten and the danger of rabies was always around. Bal Panchayat members got together and submitted a memorandum to the Municipal Corporation; and Municipal Corporation caught all the dogs from area.
- Naktapatha is a hamlet near a stone crushing area where all the parents work as stone crushers. There were no schools, bal panchayat submitted the memorandum to Nagar panchayat and the education department and after the continuous follow-up, a school was built.
- All the Bal panchayats are aware about Child Line and using it when required. In Madre ki Mata there was a snacks factory where children were working; Bal panchayat members called Child Line and registered a complaint. Child Line took the necessary action. Bal Panchayat also called Child Line to Report Child Marriages.
Bal panchayats are a very good way to practice child participation. All the Bal panchayats are working under the guidance of CID. CID is ensuring the increase in the level of participation. We are looking forward to making innovations to take participation to the next level.