One of the main objectives of our Educate. Empower. Lead. campaign with Malala Fund is to give our peer mentors, girls residing in our shelter home and slum communities who are advocates for girls’ education, the opportunities to present their views on the situation for girls living in India to changemakers. Therefore we were very happy when the Ahmednagar Child Welfare Committee (CWC) agreed to meet with ten of our peer mentors to discuss child rights and the role they play in protecting vulnerable children.
Our peer mentor Jayashri opened the meeting with a summary of our campaign and each girl then asked a question to the committee. These included what they could do when their classmates were forced to marry and leave school and the support pregnant girls can get on deciding their unborn babies futures.
The committee then described the laws and rights available to girls and the role and rules of the CWC which works for justice for children through the Maharashtra Child Act 2015 for children in need of care and protection. There are currently 2350 CWCs in the 6350 districts of India.
Our girls kept them on their toes asking intelligent and probing questions about the laws and how they could help improve the situation for their peers. These covered the treatment of children who commit crimes, child marriage and pregnancy and documentation required by those living in shelter homes. The committee also shared the support available to children and women such as Childline and the police. They also covered the laws offering protection in cases of domestic and sexual violence, adoption, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO), pre-natal sex determination and free legal aid.
Asha who took the minutes of the meeting and created this report says:
“It was really good to get information about the CWC and to be treated as equals and really listened to. The committee members were shocked to hear some of our stories and what we had to say about our own and others experiences and they treated us and our opinions and suggestions with respect. I think we really gave them insights into conditions they were unaware of.”