The core objective was to provide a forum for the voices of CWDs across the country, from both rural and urban contexts, on accessible environment, health services, education and child rights. Since this is the first time such a forum is being organised where there is a strong representation from rural India and a fine balance with the diverse forms of disabilities, the focus is on inclusion and empowerment.
Amar Thakur from one of the slums in Kolkata shared his experience “Due to my disability I cannot walk properly and it made me sad that I could not walk like others and that I am unable to participate in outdoor games with other children. Recently, I got an opportunity to participate in a program “OUR VOICE” Assembly of children with disabilities. During the assembly many other children like me came and shared their thoughts. It gave me the confidence and motivated me to think that I can do what others can. After that, I attended a residential training on Malaria and then, my friends and I helped spread awareness in our community”.
Present also as panelists were Dr.Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Mr.Prasanna Pincha, Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disability, Dr.Poonam Natrajan, Chairperson, National Trust, Mr. Ketan Kothari, Regional Program Development Advisor, Sight Saver, Ms.Razia Ismail, Convenor, IACR and Dr. Jayakumar Christian, CEO and National Director, World Vision India.
Security and protection were also found to be wanting especially for the girl child, which further decreased their self confidence. The general apathy towards the plight of children with disabilities in terms of infrastructural development, inadequate number of schools and roadblocks in attaining the certificates for disability were also cited as major hindrances.
According to a UNICEF report, there are around 3 crore children in India suffering from some form of disability. The Sixth All-India Educational Survey (NCERT 1998) reports that of India’s 20 crore school-aged children (6–14 years), 2 crore require special needs education. However, our experience in the field has taught us that in a score-card exercise with over 1100 children in 8 states, CWDs in special schools rated everything from behaviour of teachers to infrastructure better than those in regular schools. Considering that the NSS 58th Round report of 2002 showed 94.3% of 5 – 14 year old Children with Special Needs (CWSNs) in school attended regular school, only 5.7 percent attended special schools. Therefore, the choice facing most CWSNs is whether they are out of school or in a regular inclusive school.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Jayakumar Christian, CEO & National Director, World Vision India said, “While policies push for inclusive education, merely enrolling children with disabilities in regular schools isn’t enough. Unless every child feels that they are empowered enough to help shape the nation, we still have a long way to go.”
Some of the demands made by the children at the assembly:
● Access to Anganwadi centres
● Need for disability certificates and all govt. entitlements
● To be treated in par with other children
● School buildings to be friendly for them
● Access to safe drinking water and friendly toilet facility for children with disability
●Need for special trained teachers and learning aids should be friendly for children with disability
● Access to healthcare facility within 3 kms
● More awareness programs about their Rights
About World Vision India:
World Vision India is a Christian humanitarian organisation working to create lasting change in the lives of children, families and communities living in poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, caste, race, ethnicity or gender. Spread across 174 locations in India, World Vision works through long-term sustainable community development programmes and immediate disaster relief assistance.