Sonia Dogra

“Childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons”

There is no argument for the aforesaid. While we eagerly wait to grow up, it’s not very late before we want to slip back into our childhood. It is only as a child that one can enjoy the simple things of life. A pebble can be as precious as a diamond and a shack is no less than a castle. Childhood is a journey that makes the most beautiful memories. Recognising the importance of this stage of life, many many years ago in 1856 Children’s Day began on the second Sunday of June in Chelsea by the Reverend Dr Charles Leonard, pastor of the Universalist Church. A special service was held then, just for children. The day was observed as Rose Day, to be later named Flower Sunday and still later Children’s Day.

Since 1950, 1st June is observed in many countries as Children’s Day or The International Day for Protection of Children. The United Nations recognises 20 November as Universal Children’s Day. First proclaimed by the United Kingdom in 1954, it was established to encourage all countries to institute a day to promote understanding among children and to initiate action for the welfare of children. On November 20, 1959 the day was adopted by the United Nations along with a Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

Also known as Bal Divas in India, it is celebrated every year on 14th November, the birth anniversary of Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru, independent India’s first Prime Minister and a great lover of children. He was a patron of education and instrumental in the establishment of many primary institutions such as AIIMS and IITs.  The idea is to increase the awareness of people towards the rights, care and education of children.

Anthony Horowitz rightly points out in The House of Silk and I quote, “Childhood is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child.”

In 2012, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon led the way for the education of children laying stress on education for all as well as improvisation of the skills acquired at school.

So while schools and parents prepare to turn another day into a special one with celebrations and merry making and TV channels exploring children’s movies to be screened for an entire week, let us look a little deeper and uncover the real essence behind the day! Well, Children’s Day is simply not a day to celebrate children for who they are, but to bring awareness about pressing issues related to children, namely, abuse, exploitation and discrimination. Many a times we see children as young as nine or ten years of age working at traffic signals or in small eateries or even at homes as help for minor tasks. Ever wondered about those seemingly lost eyes of a twelve year old as they do rounds of a restaurant while babysitting a ten month baby even as the family enjoys a sumptuous meal. There are an alarming 153 million children around the world between the ages of 5 and 14 who are forced into child labour. India is sadly the home of the largest number of child labourers in the world. From working in cottonseed production to zari and embroidery industries and even the mining sector. Poverty is certainly the primary reason for child labour.  

In our country, it is more of a vicious circle with children helping parents to make both ends meet. Sometimes they are even forced to work as employees in lieu of the debt taken by their parents and due to the high rates of interest involved. Illiteracy and over population are other reasons leading to child labour. There are an array of laws that have been passed from time to time to curb the evil. But despite these the country has failed miserably to find even a temporary solution to the problem. And even as Government agencies grapple to find solutions, there is a lot that the general public can contribute to mitigate, if not eliminate the practice.

The beginning can be made by saying no to children as domestic help. An alternative idea could be of utilising the money to educate and provide some basic facilities to the child concerned. Another important step would be to raise a voice against bonded labour and report matters of grave concern rather than turn a blind eye towards them. Help rendered in the form of old clothes, books and ration to poor families can go a long way in preventing their children to take up work at a young age. Sponsoring a child through a legal NGO is a welcome step that can allow an innocent life to live with dignity and receive some basic education.

Finally, as parents, teachers and children get together to plan events this children’s day let us make an effort to make our children aware of their less fortunate counterparts so that they learn not only to empathise with them but also learn to grow with a sense of responsibility towards such children.

Children’s Day is for all children irrespective of their age, colour or financial status. It is an opportunity to tell each child that his childhood is precious before it simply slips away like sand. This Children’s Day could be a reason to celebrate with a friend who has never known the joy of this day. A set of new clothes and shoes, some goodies and maybe a sponsored education can go a long way to light up this Children’s Day for a child and mean a lifetime of happiness for someone!

For it is never too late to have a happy childhood! And well, time to gift that happy childhood is right here!!!!

 

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