Child-ministers and young earth-proactivists associated with civil society organisations from across the country, with the support of UNICEF and NINEISMINE, joined hands to organise a national inclusive children’s climate parliament to initiate a dialogue on climate change with 11 MPs, in the presence of the vice president of India, M. Venkaiah Naidu; the union minister for women and child development, Smriti Zubin Irani; and the chair of the parliamentary group for children.
Stressing on the need for taking urgent and quick action to prevent climate change, Naidu, in his keynote address, said, “We merely have 10 to 12 years to influence the course of climate change before its adverse impact become irreversible. In a way, the next few years are our only chance for ensuring that our future generations have a chance to lead healthy lives. We cannot allow apathy in our action to jeopardize our future, our children’s future. Child rights should be interwoven into key national climate change and adoption strategies, policies and planning document. It is our response to climate change to include a child centric approach and to do this the best way is through platforms like this.”
World Child-Rights Day (WCD) is a global day of action for children, by children, marking the 71st anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Climate change was the key theme of the WCD celebrations in India this year. Young people across the world are speaking up about climate change risks and the action that governments across the world need to take to reverse the same.
UNICEF, in partnership with NINEISMINE, organised this National Children’s Climate Parliament, which took place digitally. It enabled young citizens of India to proactively engage with key duty bearers and policy makers on climate action. The questions posed by child-parliamentarians, to their elected representatives, at the national level, focused on climate change and, in particular, its impact on children who have inherited this problem and its effects from adults.
Other members present at this child-led climate parliament included Vandana Chavan, MP, Rajya Sabha and Convener; Parliamentarians’ Group for Children; and Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, chief, UNICEF. MPs from different states were also present, namely, Amar Patnaik and Sasmit Patra from Orissa, Arwind Sawant from Maharashtra, Amee Yajnik from Gujarat, Krishna Lavu from Andhra Pradesh, Dr Banda Prakash from Telangana, among others. These MPs engaged with a zero-hour session with Heena Gavit, MP, for Nadurbar, Maharashtra, posing questions to MPs which were drafted by child-parliamentarians themselves. The aim was to create a 1000 GretaThunbergs who are able to understand and amplify the voice of their Mother Earth and her vulnerable children.
Manisha (17), child vice-president of the National Inclusive Children’s Parliament (NICP), strongly emphasised that though children may not be voters, their voices can be stronger than the votes of adults, and, hence, it was necessary for children to speak out now in order to secure their future. She further stressed on the importance of raising one’s voice for this important cause, “‘Nothing about us children, without us children’. In other words, the need for children to engage actively in policy making is real; we need to proactive citizens of today (and not just the future).”
These child parliamentarians have engaged with over 50,000 young advocates in the run-up processes to help their peers understand the science of climate change. The National Inclusive Children’s Parliament also met in the previous week to prioritize the recommendations and inputs received through these engagements and, in particular, to the preceding Inclusive National General Assembly with 100s of children across the country. They had genuine consultations with their friends from across the country, including children from the most vulnerable sections of India, who crossed great hurdles to overcome various challenges of poverty and digital exclusion during this COVID pandemic.