Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai (night), T20.

UNICEF says sports essential for all-round development of children

The Parliamentarians' Group for Children (PGC) today hosted an interactive session of children with Members of Parliament representing different political parties.

The Parliamentarians' Group for Children (PGC) today hosted an interactive session of children with Members of Parliament representing different political parties.

In marking Child Rights Week, 35 Members of Parliament listened to children sharing their experiences in countering discrimination through sports, calling for inclusion and equality for all children.

UNICEF India Representative Cynthia McCaffrey appreciated the spirit of children to overcome gender and equity barriers. She said "Every child deserves to feel celebrated and has the right to be included and protected. And every child has the right to be heard. We are heartened by India's efforts to amplify the perspectives of its youngest generations and thank the PGC for its leadership in unlocking a better future for every child." She requested all elected representatives to join hands to support providing all children  with equal opportunities for a better future."

The focus of World Children's Day this year was on sports as a powerful means to promote inclusion, equality, and non-discrimination. Sport helps children develop important life skills such as leadership, discipline, teamwork, tolerance, hard work, and cooperation.

Opening the session, MP, and Chair of PGC, Gaurav Gogoi reiterating their commitment said, "Our country is only stronger when every child gets the life that they deserve. Race, caste, religion, sexual orientation, and income level do not impact their hopes and all dreams of children are realized. We believe that every child in the country should have a safe and protected childhood with equal opportunities, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized children."

UN Resident Coordinator for India, Shombi Sharp thanked the MPs for championing child rights both inside and outside the Parliament.

Five children from different states shared compelling stories of determination, hope, and resilience.

Seventeen-year-old Jolina Marak from Meghalaya, Gold medalist in Deaflympics, 15-year-old Guranshi Sharma from Madhya Pradesh, 15-year-old footballer Nisha from Rajasthan, 16-year-old Maksud from Mumbai, and 14-year-old athlete Balvinder Singh from Telangana appealed to the MPs for better sports infrastructure and opportunities to participate in competitive sports.

Responding to the demands put forth by the children, the Members of Parliament spoke about their commitment to facilitating greater access to sports at the panchayat, state, and national levels.

Pratap Chandra Sarangi MP Lok Sabha from Odisha said, "The society has the responsibility to children. A seed kept in the almirah cannot grow, only if it is properly planted, it will grow into a gigantic tree, giving shelter and fruit to thousands. Our children are potential giants, and we should give them every opportunity to shine".

Sujeet Kumar MP Rajya Sabha, Odisha was inspired by the determination of the children and committed to spending 10 percent of his MP local area development funds (MPLAD) for sports facilities and infrastructure in rural areas of his constituency. He encouraged other MPs to also commit funds from MPLADs to increase children's participation in sports in their constituencies.

He mentioned the need to increase fiscal expenditure on education from the current 3 percent to 6 percent as per recommendations of the Kothari Commission. He proposed the holding of a special session in the parliament dedicated to children's issues.

Mahua Majhi, MP Rajya Sabha Jharkhand, Sunita Duggal MP Lok Sabha, Haryana, Sunil Singh, MP Lok Sabha, Jharkhand, Dilip Saikia, MP Lok Sabha, Assam, and Fauzia Khan MP Rajya Sabha, Maharashtra also spoke passionately on supporting children and advocated for better implementation of policies promoting sports and child participation.

A group of children performed a thought-provoking skit on gender roles that restrict children's potential, especially girls. Children are encouraged to reach out to 1098 Childline to report any violation of their rights.

World Children's Day is an annual event celebrated on November 20 to mark the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UNCRC that was promulgated 33 years ago on this day.

Bal Samvad is hosted by the Parliamentarians' Group for Children (PGC) and provides a forum for young people to directly engage with political leaders and legislators to seek their support in promoting and protecting children's rights. Beginning on November 14th (National Children's Day) and ending on November 20th (World Children's Day), UNICEF and partners celebrate a full week of activities and events for and with children as Child Rights Week in India. (ANI)

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