The consideration of children as important members of human society who need attention has evolved over time. A number of instruments have been created by global government bodies and civil society organizations to this effect. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and ratified by large number of governments across the globe and India signing it in 1992 is a major step in the commitment to the protection of child rights. Various policy and legal frameworks developed by India indicate the nation’s inclination toward fulfilment of child rights.
India with its diversified social and cultural history inherits a society with varied socio – economic identities. Divisions based on religion, caste, language, gender and wealth are an integral part of these identities which lend themselves to iniquitous, exploitative and oppressive social and economic relationships. It marginalizes large segments of society who are historically on the fringe and victims of these constructs. However this segmentation is not linear. For example the social condition and status of women and children from privileged caste and wealthier background might just be the same as that from not so privileged groups. The changing fabric of the country in the liberal economy accentuates some of these divisions. The Constitution of India acknowledges these segmentations, divisions and inequalities and pledges to bring about changes that guarantee secularism, democracy, civil liberties and equity. Government and civil society organizations committed to the Constitution of India attempt to bring this change through their programme. MelJol is one such Civil Society Organization. It works towards bringing about a society that is based on principles of inclusion and equity. MelJol believes that children are one of the important stakeholders and partners in bringing about this change as they are not only the makers of tomorrow but valuable citizens of today.
The MelJol programme of social and financial education therefore is aimed at generating critical awareness, empowering children and their ecosystem through systematic interventions. Thus, it puts equal emphasis on learning social skills along with the skills of conservation of all resources including health and hygiene, the natural environment, socio-cultural and financial ones. It views the organization of children and adolescents as an important resource for action, self learning and social change. MelJol works primarily with underprivileged children in Government schools, village institutions and pre-schools (anganwadis) across the country to provide them with opportunities to participate in the process of development.
The partnership with other Civil Society Organizations, participation in Government and private sector programmes provides opportunities for achieving the desired scale for significant impact. The main current flagship program is called “Aflatoun Social and Financial Education” which is developed by MelJol for various age groups from 3 to 18 years of age (Aflatot: 3 to 6 years, Aflatoun: 6 to 14 years and Aflateen for 14 to 18 years). It instillsin children, a sense of pride at their ability to intervene and participate positively in their own world. It supports children to become independent thinkers and make decisions based on scientific and practical information. The empowered children and their child friendly eco – system would immensely complement efforts at changing our society in a more inclusive, just and participatory democratic direction.