Strategic Advocacy for Promoting Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) as a Fundamental Right
All children have equal rights to life, dignity, opportunity, health, education, participation and a safe, caring and healthy environment where they can grow and develop to actively contribute to the building of a progressive and prosperous society and nation.
Investments in children are the foundation of a just society, a strong economy and a world free of poverty. All Poverty reduction programmes must start with children.
Kofi Annan, UN General Secretary
Children (0-18 years) constitute 41% of India’s population. CHETNA strives to ensure holistic health of children and adolescents (0-18 years) from Rights perspective; focusing on survival and participation rights.
Laying the firm foundation
The first six to eight years of a child’s life is known as the early childhood stage and acknowledged to be the most decisive years for lifelong development. The pace of development in these years is extremely rapid and the nutrition, healthcare and developmental needs of children in this stage of life are critical. These basic needs of children are considered to be their rights and need to be addressed in a gender sensitive and inclusive manner; irrespective of their caste, creed, sex and geographical conditions.
Gaps in policy framework and poor implementation of progressive programmes such as Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) hamper healthy development of 160 million children below six years that constitutes about 16 per cent of the Indian population
Under-nutrition affects 46% of children under five years of age and 47% of rural women. Patriarchy and gender discrimination results in women’s low status
Early marriage and early child bearing put young mothers at high risk of multiple nutritional deficiencies, adversely affecting their reproductive health and outcomes
The Government of India’s third and fourth combined periodic report on the Convention on the Rights of Children (August 2011) also presents a grim picture. Despite universalisation of ICDS in the 11th Five Year Plan, the neo-natal mortality and infant mortality rates have remained stagnant. Out of every 26.1 million children born every year in India 0.892 million new-borns die before one month of life. Neo-natal mortality (NMR) is 34 per 1000 live births. The proportion of female deaths is higher in all these counts.
Holistic ECCD interventions can prove powerful tools to break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition. The Government of India has recognised an urgent need for the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy. An ECCED Cell is established with in the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India. A national core committee has been constituted for developing the ECCE policy. CHETNA is a part of this committee.
The policy draft is prepared but not yet finalised and approved by the Cabinet. However, the suggested policy’s focus is narrow. It refers to early childhood education rather than comprehensive and holistic development of the young child, including nutrition and health components
CHETNA, through a focused Advocacy Project attempts to ensure a Comprehensive Early Childhood, Care, Education and Development (ECCED) Policy at national as well as Gujarat state level that would address the challenges faced by the young children in India.
CHETNA advocates for:
CHETNA facilitates and contributes to participatory consultative processes to ensure that the concerns of children, especially the young children, feature in all policies that are currently in progress, including ECCED policy.
Some of the specific policies in progress include:
1. Review and renewal of the National Policy for Children 1974
2. National Youth Policy 2010
3. A Steering Committee member of the Women’s Agency and Child Rights constituted by the Planning Commission, GoI for the 12th Five Year Plan.
4. Working group processes for ICDS reforms constituted by the National Advisory Council
CHETNA will ensure that the ECCED policy is announced at the earliest. Once the policy is in place CHETNA envisages engaging with the Government at national and state level in developing an operational plan. CHETNA will also continue to work with civil society organizations to enable the communities to monitor the implementation of the policy
Advocacy material developed