Society looks at children through a varied lens. Parents love and dote on their children. However, this is usually limited to their children and does not extend to all children living in the village. A village community may also be constrained by socio-economic restrictions such as caste, religion and poverty or wealth. This influences the parents’ psychology, their feeling of responsibility and their ethics and attitudes towards other children, leaving room for exploitation and violence. A Bal Mitra Gram on the other hand, realises that all children are the present and the future of the village. During the process for establishing a BMG, the village starts to strive towards unconditional friendship and propagates equality among all children of the village. The relationship of elders with children should not be one of compassion but rather of friendship so that children can share their problems without any hesitation. Social changes are brought about by and for children. A Bal Mitra Gram looks at inclusion of all groups as a powerful tool in uplifting the poorest, most marginalized sections of society. This process is led by children, supported by women, youth, elders, the Gram Panchayat and all other stakeholders.
The main components of BMG:
BMG is designed to empower the child, put collective efforts in a participatory for developing child-centric decision in the process of making people aware about child rights by creating a conscious environment. The main components can be understood in detail like this –
1. Empowering every single child: A BMG strives to empower every single child in the village. Each child should be able to raise issues affecting him or her with the village Panchayat and other authorities, with confidence, regardless of his or her caste or community.
2. Collective development: In allocating resources, all households in a BMG ensure that the village Panchayat representing them rises above vote-bank politics and distributes/shares benefits in an equitable manner. Development must trickle down to the poorest and the most disadvantaged sections of the village society.
3. Participatory democracy: The Bal Panchayat ensures fair representation from all groups of the community and must work to uproot discrimination. The children show the villagers a path to put aside all differences and feel a collective responsibility towards development. Other marginalised groups also feel inspired to voice their issues because children of all communities come together to raise their concerns.
4. Awareness of children’s rights: A BMG is conscious of children’s rights and is sensitive towards issues pertaining to children. The Bal Panchayat is supported and gains legitimacy from all the different groups and the village Panchayat; the Bal Panchayat in turn brings children’s issues to the village forums. By earning the trust of the village, the Bal Panchayat becomes the voice of the children and the village itself. This mutual support between the village and the Bal Panchayat becomes self-sustaining. Self-confidence and collective self-confidence to be added here.
5. Child-centric decision-making: As children do not vote, village policies implemented by the Gram Panchayat usually do not bear the interests of children in mind. A BMG places the safety and progress of children as its top priority.
BMG is a unique model developed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) in 2001 to make villages and wards in India child labour free where every school-going child will be in schools. BMG envisions a child friendly world, where every child is free from exploitation, receives education, recreation and health facilities, their voices are heard and participation is ensured in an environment of friendliness, rights and dignity in the community. This is done successfully through involving the local community and participation of children themselves by forming democratic institution called Bal Panchayat (Children Panchayat) which serves as an effective tool to influence the decision making process and ensures the participation of children at the micro level. Gender equality is core the functioning of Bal Panchayat. Children’s parliament addresses the issues related to Quality of education and loopholes of education system and by highlighting these pitfalls; BMG has been blooming in a number of villages to improve the quality of education. This is only process it has been able to knock the sleeping conscience of the Government through constantly taking up the issue related to the development of the children at the village level.
The uniqueness of the Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) initiative lies in active participation of the village children in creating a legitimate democratic space for themselves in panchayats, communities, schools and families. Secondly solving the deep rooted problem of child labour and creating a demand and value for good education as a village pride, igniting the mass consciousness and using the people’s potential, power and local resources is another significant element for success and sustainability. BMG is the true translation of child rights at the grassroots level.
Objectives of BMG
• Elimination of Child Labour from villages.
• Formation and strengthening of child protection mechanism
• Strengthening education systems that encourage working children, and those at risk of working, to attend school.
• Formation of Bal Panchayats in villages and their institutionalization through active participation in Gram Panchayat.
• Establish better linkages with Public Health Programs of government for access to health services to communities, particularly children.
• Mobilisation & organisation of communities for demanding their rights and entitlements.
Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) Programme is started by SNBS in Agra from August 2017, We are presently working with Block Bichpuri provide benefits to Lakhanpur, Maghtayi, Bilasganj and Doraitha village. SNBS Team is facilitating education/Health to the needy people of these village throught this BMG. We are developing BMG to stop Child Labour and engage every children with education.