Budget crunch hits child development

Modnath Dhakal

Kanchanrup, Saptari, Sept. 21: The Child Friendly Local Governance (CFLG), a government scheme for child development through better governance, has hit a snag in Kanchanrup municipality due to lack of sufficient budget.

The municipality, formed by including about nine villages, faces a paucity of funds to build child- friendly infrastructure and installing other facilities needed for maternal and child health, spaces for recreation and sanitary requirement.

Kanchanrup was announced a municipality a couple of years ago.

“Before it was announced as a municipality, Dharampur, one of the VDCs included in the municipality, was in the last stage of being declared as a CFLG village. The remaining areas in the municipality need to work a lot to attain the status of being ‘child friendly’,” said Bhawana Poudel, a member of Municipal Child Club Network. She has already served as the president of District Child Club Network and vice president of Regional Child Club Network.

The municipality is working to construct structures such as disable-friendly toilets, children park and declaring it as an open defecation free area but is running short of budget.

“We want a children’s park, playground, a public library and public toilets here,” demanded Manisha Kumari Yadav, another member of Municipal Child Club Network.

“We have emphasised on building child-friendly structures and organising capacity-building programmes for the children. But we don’t have enough budget for them,” said Ashok Yadav, a young engineer who leads the planning department at the municipal office.

The municipality has been struggling to reduce child marriage, child labour and child abuse. Similarly, it is still trying to become a defecation free area.

“The municipality has enforced a mandatory provision for the toilets. If anyone wants to get benefits and services from the municipal office, they must have a toilet in their home,” said Yadav.

Like other villages in the district, there are child marriages in Kanchanrup. Manisha is one of the social campaigners against child marriage, who has not only raised voices against the social malady but also rescued some girls from getting married at an early age.

Child Club Network has staged street drama at 22 locations in the municipality. The drama, dialogues, costumes and acting were all organised and performed by the club.

Bhawana said that the street drama played a great role in creating awareness against child marriage. Now, children themselves report to the clubs and police if there are any cases of child marriage.

Kanchanrup has school-level child clubs in 34 out of the 44 schools, ward level clubs in 11 wards and one municipal network.

They organise a child council once a year where they assemble in three groups – one of children below 12 years of age and two groups of males and females with children in the 12-18 age group.

They present things they don’t like, give information about risky areas for children and how they could be developed in pictorial forms.

Children represent their clubs in the Ward Citizen’s Forum, Municipal Council and Integrated Planning Formulation Committee. Bhawana was invited as the chief guest at the last Municipal Council which had become news across the district.

“We feel that our voices are being heard. We have become a stakeholder in the development works, and the School Management Committee, Ward Citizen’s Forum and Municipal Office take us as their partner in development,” said Sunil Kumar Sardar, a child club member.

They are especially proud of their success in reducing child marriage in their locality.

“We had successfully stopped one child marriage here and two other marriages were cancelled because of the first one,” said Manisha.

Bhawana said that the child clubs were raising their voices against corporal punishment meted out in the schools, managing first aid boxes, including sanitary pads in schools, and planning for another street drama aimed at raising awareness about having toilets at home.

Rameshwor Yadav, District Committee member of Federal Socialist Forum, said that Kanchanrup needed to work hard to get rid of child labour and child marriage though both have been substantially minimised.

“We have been helping the child clubs in running a crusade against child marriage. Children have forced the political leaders to change their behaviour. Leaders have become more responsible and accountable because of the child clubs,” he remarked.

Kanchanrup has a children’s park. “The government and United Nations International Children’s Fund (Unicef) provided some assistance in establishing the park,” said Uttam Acharya, a journalist.

Unicef focal person for CFLG in Saptari Ashok Jha said that Unicef provided Rs. 800,000 in assistance to Kanchanrup last year and Rs. 500,000 this year.

 

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