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On International Children's Day, The World Must Rally Together For Their Cause

Pledge to go beyond engagement and towards a partnership.

20/11/2016 8:38 AM IST | Updated 20/11/2016 9:18 AM IST
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Danish Siddiqui / Reuters
A boy wearing a plastic sack plays in an alley in a slum in Mumbai, India, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

There is no greater violence than to deny the dreams of our children. By depriving them of their right to freedom, education and a healthy childhood, we are causing more damage for the future.

Today, our world is characterised by ruthless abuse of children. Close to 168 million languish in labour and 5.5 million are caught in slavery. The government figure of child labourers in India is 4.3 million whereas non-government evaluations place it at 10 times more. A large number of Indian children, about 9.84 million, are out of school.

Every 8 minutes a child goes missing in India. They become invisible and are lost as data figures.

Even today, in many parts of the world, children are denied the opportunity to realise their full potential. Globally, 62 million kids have never been to a primary school and almost 260 million children up to the age of 18 are out-of-school. Adding to this, 230 million children are caught in conflict-prone environments. In countries like Syria, Palestine and South Sudan, an entire generation is being deprived of its rights. An approximate 21 million children have been displaced and face poverty, violence and inhumane conditions. This annihilation of childhood troubles me and should you, too.

Every 8 minutes a child goes missing in India. They become invisible and are lost as data figures. I once rescued a thirteen-year-old girl named Sarita who had been trafficked from Assam. Sarita was brought to Delhi by an agent and sold to an illegal placement agency for 22,000 rupees. She was then employed at a household in Sonipat where she was forced to work without any pay. Any contact with her relatives was terminated, and she was subject to physical abuse by the employer. Sarita was also sexually abused by another man, a vegetable vendor, in the same locality. Her experiences became intolerable and she decided to give up her life. Fortunately, we reached her at the right time.

Danish Siddiqui / Reuters
A girl sits on a sack of discarded clothes at a slum in Mumbai, India, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The problems faced by children in India are the same as faced by children elsewhere, hence this issue cannot be solved in isolation. There is an imperative need for a stronger global approach. After all, till when will we rely on state and central establishments to repair the wrong of the society?

As we embark on the path of corrective action, we must ask ourselves: how can the future be made any different from the past and present? Do we continue recording incremental improvements in technology and innovation while failing to protect the rights of our left-behind children, or unite the world through the compassion of our children by enabling, empowering and engaging them in the development process?

In spite of the institutions of governance and faith, laws and conventions, we have a serious moral deficit that has resulted in apathy and lack of will for our children. Their well-being is a missing element in political priorities, budgetary allocations and social discourse.

In spite of the institutions of governance and faith, laws and conventions, we have a serious moral deficit that has resulted in apathy and lack of will for our children.

It is essential to have a more co-ordinated and integrated approach to these issues. Violence is not only manifested externally, but it has its roots in the multiple facades of structural inequality; and to achieve peace and spread compassion, we need the sanctity of children — clean and untarnished by prejudice — to decide our fates. We should provide the right platform for them to become leaders — not only of tomorrow but also of today.

Because, if development has to be sustainable and progressive, the youth and children are to be assigned the front seat.

To begin with, we should go beyond engagement and towards a partnership. The civil society, humanitarian groups, governments and corporate sector have to take responsibility. To lend moral voice to the cause of children, we intend to create a platform of Nobel laureates and world leaders called the Laureates and Leaders For Children Summit. This Summit will amplify the collective leadership of Nobel laureates across different fields and world leaders to put a spotlight on the greatest moral challenge of our times, the need to protect and educate every child.

To lend moral voice to the cause of children, we intend to create a platform of Nobel laureates and world leaders called the Laureates and Leaders For Children Summit

Simultaneously, the empowerment of children and youth in their own right as ambassadors to advocate for their peers is central to our movement. The youth is looking for new avenues through which to deliver promises of a just and equitable future, and this sense of idealism needs to be harnessed for greater good. Therefore, through the 'youth for youth' campaign called '100 million for 100 million', we aspire to engage with 100 million young people to positively work towards the lives of 100 million left-out children of the world.

The youth today has proven its mettle in the corporate world, banking industry, ICT, medicine, science, and various other fields. This became possible because their childhoods were protected and nurtured. I have no doubt that if every child in the world is provided for and cherished, this generation will prove its global leadership.

Our strength lies in our numbers and together we can change the fate of the world.

Let us globalise the world through the compassion of our children.

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