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Leaders in the Making
Wouldn’t all world leaders together be able to enrol all children in schools?
Former bonded labourer, Devli asks the world leaders at the High Level Event on MDGs in the UN, New York

New York, 25 September 2008: When rescued as a 7 year old, Devli had not seen paper, did not know tap water or that a banana is eaten after peeling it. This young girl is now the classmate of the likes of world political leaders, faith group leaders, CEOs of like Gordon Brown, PM of UK; Kevin Ruud, Prime Minister of Australia; Queen Rania of Jordan; Robert Zoellick, President of World Bank; Koichiro Matsuura, Director General, UNESCO; Prince Saud of Saudi Arabia; John Sentamu, Archbishop of York; Craig Barret, President of Intel and John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, singers Bono and Bob Geldof. These dignitaries were participants of the high level event on education on MDGs dubbed “Class of 2015: Education for All” campaign organised as part of the UN General Assembly in the UN in New York.

 

Chosen to represent the voice of child and bonded labourers, Devli narrated her story of working at a stone quarry in Haryana, “We would work from morning 4 AM and work until the next night 3 AM. We were beaten if we took rest at any time. It was gruelling and very tough. I was born there and so were my parents.” Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) rescued the entire family along with 112 others in 2004 and rehabilitated them in Jodhpur, their native district. “In my village, I went around from family to family, and helped enrol 15 children into school. If I as a girl could enrol 15 children; wouldn’t all of you as world leaders be able to enrol all children into schools?” was her innocent question to the galaxy of some of the world’s most influential people.

 

Addressing the audience, Kailash Satyarthi, the President of GCE said: “That children are still out of school is a shame on the face of the earth. There are currently 77 million children out of school Even if 7 children remain deprived of education; we are the people responsible for it. This is a historic event when all leaders have come together on one platform and we should now take the responsibility for providing education for all the children of the world.” The class of 2015 is a campaign for genuine commitment to the achievement of education for all.

 

The high level event saw the world leaders making financial commitments to the tune of USD 4.5 Bn collectively for the education of children over the next three years. This would help educate over 15 million children around the world. Gordon Brown, the UK PM said: “What is a better way to reach out to out of school children than to put each one into school? There is no cause better than this and England is a proud member of the class of 2015.” Kevin Ruud, the Australian PM acknowledged the British PM’s leadership and stated Australia’s commitment to the World Bank’s Fast Track Initiative for education for all.

 

Queen Rania of Jordan spoke of the strong need for girl’s education; especially because girls like Devli are out of school for reasons like taking care of siblings, fetching water and performing other household chores. The representatives of Bill Clinton Foundation.

 

The eminent singers Bono and Bob Geldof were present for the event and said that they would keep reminding the leaders of their promises to world’s children wherever they travelled and performed.

 

Corporate heads, Craig Barrett of Intel and John Chambers of Cisco pledged support to the cause. They also spoke of the work that they along with Microsoft Corp were doing for providing education through their foundations especially in Africa. More than 15 children have become software literate through our programmes they said.

 

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, leaders of the civil society organisations- Comic Relief, Save the Children Fund, Action Aid, Oxfam International were the other speakers. All these dignitaries signed up for the class of 2015, the class of the world leaders that would be graded for performance on aid for education and scores given at the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2 and 3 addressing education. Global Campaign for Education (GCE) would be the International Secretariat for the Class of 2015.

 

The wide gamut of leaders from the political arena, faith groups, civil society and corporates coming together for a single cause made it a unique event - to pledge resources so that children like Devli don’t remain out of school, so that the gap in funding doesn’t come in the way of achieving the MDGs 2 and 3 on education.

 
Bal Ashram Boy wins International Children’s Peace Prize
 

A 14-year-old Indian boy has been awarded the International Children's Peace Prize for leading a campaign against child labour and child slavery.

 

“This is our right - that (adults) have to listen. This is children's rights. And if they are not abiding with that right, we will work harder to make them hear.” Om Prakash

 

Sunday afternoon November 19, the International Children’s Peace Prize was awarded to Om Prakash Gurjar in the center of Dutch Government in The Hague, The Netherlands. The fourteen-year-old boy from the Jaipur region in India, won the prize because of his brave fight against child labour and child slavery. The Children’s Peace Prize was awarded by Frederik Willem De Klerk, former President of South Africa, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize together with Nelson Mandela.

 

Speaking through an interpreter, Om reminded adults that they have a duty to listen to children. “This is our right - that they have to listen. This is children's rights. And if they are not abiding with that right, we will work harder to make them hear.”

 

Om Prakash Gurjar was taken away from his parents at the age of five and went through three years of child slavery. After he was rescued by the activist of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, he was taken care of in Bal Ashram (a transit rehabilitation centre for former child labourers run by Bachpan Bachao Andolan) and was able to go to school. From the moment Om Prakash started living in this refuge, he initiated several remarkable activities to bring attention to children’s rights. For instance, he successfully fought against the unlawful contributions the poorest parents often still had to pay to let their children go to school. The result was that in the whole state of Rajasthan, education became accessible to all children. He also helped making many villages “Child Friendly”, meaning that all children’s rights are respected there and that child labour is not accepted. Moreover, he campaigned so that parents would get their children birth certificates, which protects their children from exploitation and gives them the right to health care and education. On his own, he arranged for more than 500 of such official documents, thus saving these children from the fate that was once his own. He says such registration is the first step towards enshrining children's rights, proving their age, and helping to protect them from slavery, trafficking, forced marriage or serving as a child soldiers.

 

The International Children’s Peace Prize is awarded every year to an exceptional child, who has bravely devoted him- or herself to children’s rights. The prize consists of a statuette, the “Nkosi” and a monetary award of $100.000, to be used by a children’s project. The statuette is named after young Nkosi Johnson, who was dedicated the prize posthumously in 2005, four years after he died of Aids at the age of 12. During his short life, he fought so bravely and very successfully for the rights of children with HIV/AIDS.

 

The International Children’s Peace Prize was launched in 2005 in Rome by the KidsRights Foundation in conjunction with Nobel Peace Prize Laureates headed by Mikhail Gorbachev. The Prize gives a voice to the voiceless: Aids orphans, child prostitutes, child slaves, street kids and other vulnerable children get a stage to tell their stories to the world. Initiator KidsRights is active around the world supporting children who are on the edge of society.

 

Sunday evening November 19, Om Prakash Gurjar was honoured on Dam Square in Amsterdam during a spectacular and free open-air concert in the centre of Amsterdam. Top artists including UB40, the Sugababes, Bløf, Zucchero, Lucie Silvas, Sarah Brightman, Ilse DeLange, and many others, will perform to raise awareness for the rights of vulnerable children worldwide.

 
 
Rakesh Kumar selected as jury member of World Children's Prize
 

12 years old Rakesh was selected as a jury member for the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child and will be traveling to Sweden in April.

 

"When I was only 6 years old, I was taking my parents' cattle out to graze with some of my friends when a man offered us sweets. My friends and I decided to take some and were kidnapped. The sweets had something bad in it and we were too sick to runaway.  When I tried, I was caught and told I would be thrown out of the train. I went to three different houses before I ended up at the place I was forced to work as a slave for 6 years. I slept in a cowshed and was given tea that was drugged every morning to make me work. If I refused to drink it, I was beaten and it was forced down my throat. I worked from five in the morning to ten at night doing various chores. I was sent to cut grass and often cut my fingers from being dizzy from the drugs.

 

My father had been searching for me and so with the help of the BBA, was able to rescue me. When I was found, I could not communicate with my parents as the man who mistreated me spoke another language. I had lost my mother tongue. I stayed with my parents for a few days after which I came to Bal Ashram. I was happy at Bal Ashram as I was no longer forced to work. I could play games and attend school (non-formal education). Learning and reading Hindi is my favourite. I love to communicate with drawings. I still love to draw.

 

I want to study and become a teacher. I am really excited about getting selected as a jury member for the World's Children's Prize for the Rights of the Child.

 
Kailash Satyarthi... the seeker of truth
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