Child participation has always been a sensitive matter. By removing children from the decision-making process, their needs and desires are not heard, making their exploitation easy. Traditionally, age-appropriate participation of children is absent in all sectors in villages and schools. Within schools, teachers tend to make all decisions affecting children�s lives, as do parents and other adults at home.Bal Panchayat
The Bal Panchayat has been MSS�s biggest intervention in terms of child participation. Operating at Panchayat level, these forums mirror those of Gram Panchayats. The Bal Panchayats are open to all children aged 9-17. Each Bal Panchayat elects its own leaders, which include a Sarpanch, Vice Sarpanch, Ward Panch�s and Ministers of Education, Health, Library and Sports and Culture. Each village covered by the Bal Panchayat has its own Ward Panch, while all other leaders operate at the Panchayat-level. Bal Panchayat members conduct meetings at three different levels:
Samuh, the lowest level of the Bal Panchayat structure.
Meetings are held at the phala (hamlet) level and members
discuss issues in their phala that they would like to present
to higher level meetings.
- Bal Gram Sabha, meetings held at the Panchayat level in which all children are able to participate. Discussions focus on healthcare, education, child migration, child labour, immunisation, school enrolment and any other village-level issues relating to children. During these meetings, children work to develop an action plan for how to address these concerns.
- Bal Corum, top-level meetings held each month, attended by the Bal Panchayat leadership and led by the Sarpanch. Decisions made in these meetings will be put into action or taken to the Gram Panchayat or other authority.
The Bal Panchayat includes a number of different groups, resources and activities, all of which are managed by the children themselves:
Information Centre, a building in each Panchayat in which the
Bal Panchayat and the below groups are based.
- Bal Bank, a savings bank in which children can deposit money and withdraw it when they have a future need. The bank is improving children�s understanding of money management and savings, and enriching their understanding of micro credit and its importance in rural life.
- Bal Library, a small library at each Bal Panchayat containing a selection of books for both educational and leisure purposes. Children can borrow books and libraries also provide group reading and storytelling activities.
- Bal Sports Club, where sports and games are organised, bringing children into one place and helping to improve their physical and mental health.
|Case Study – Irregular School Attendance|
- Education of girls and child marriage
- Quality of the midday meal at school
- Life skills training
- Age-related body and hormonal changes during adolescence
- Government schemes available for adolescents
Operating in 17 Panchayats, the Amne Samne programme was designed by MSS to enable children to have a platform where they can discuss their problems in front of elder village members. In this way, adults, have a better understanding of the problems that children in their village face, and in many cases are in a position to solve them. Children also gain confidence from these meetings and develop leadership skills. Issues discussed in Amne Samne meetings include:
of school playgrounds
- Increasing the number of classrooms in schools
- Repairing school boundary walls
- Constructing new Anganwadi centres
- Constructing new school toilets
- Providing access to clean drinking water in schools
- Ensuring that immunisations are conducted regularly
- Pressuring education authorities to ensure that the student-teacher ratio meets the requirements of the RTE Act
- Monitoring Anganwadi centres, Anganwadi workers and teachers
and Communications Materials
MSS publishes a wide variety of materials developed both by staff and by children. These materials focus on a range of different topics, but all aim to raise awareness on the issues that MSS works against. Bal Pahal (�children�s magazine�) is published each quarter with an aim to disseminate information among adults and children on child rights, child protection and child participation. Children prepare articles in the magazine where they express their thoughts in the forms of articles, poetry, drawings, essays and stories. Children also produce �wall magazines�; periodicals run on notice boards where children can post their articles, poems, drawings and other compositions to share with each other. MSS also produces resource materials on topics surrounding Bal Panchayats, including �What is a Bal Panchayat?�, the election procedure for Bal Panchayat leaders, member roles and responsibilities, making Panchayats child-friendly and the qualities required for working with children and success stories. Communications materials are also published to provide information regarding topics such as immunisation, disabilities in children, birth and death registration, health and hygiene, nutrition, and infant, child and maternal mortality rates.