Enakshi Ganguly is introducing analysis of government spending and monitoring of child rights activity in parliament as tools for advocacy. She believes that it is critical to mainstream child rights in all development initiatives, governmental and nongovernmental. She therefore wants to create an environment where every development initiative will be scanned through the "child rights" lens, and where child rights will be established as one of the core indicators in voluntary sector programs, government policies and programming, and international instruments.
The New Idea
In India, there exists a huge gap between stated commitments to children's rights–namely, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified by India in 1992) and the Constitution of India–and actual practice in implementation of rights-based programs, both governmental and nongovernmental. Understanding that rights are indivisible and inalienable and that they cut across sectors and issues, Enakshi is working with policymakers, planners, nongovernment organizations, campaigns, and alliances to develop a pressure mechanism that will ensure the changes she wants to see. A principal component is the effective use of analysis and monitoring of government expenditure at the state and the national levels, the performance of both elected representatives in parliament and the judiciary. The plan is then to use these to influence government decisions about the allocation of resources to children, law, programs, and policy.
Children have always been seen as extensions of adults and their concerns always subsumed by adult concerns. Since they are not part of the vote bank, there have been inadequate government initiatives to address their needs and interests.
In India, laws for children and program interventions on issues concerning children have existed for a very long time. One of the reasons for this is that the overall developmental approach is family- or community-based, with children deemed "extensions" of the adults. Specific programs that address violations of child rights are variously project-based, issue-driven (health and education), and focused on a particular category of children: working child, girl child, street child, or disabled child.
While microlevel changes or small gains in indicators for children can be seen, there is little incremental change in the overall status of children. While there is a need to look at and address each one of these problems independently, especially through intervention programs at the most basic levels, there is also a need to view them holistically from a child rights perspective at the policy level.
It is only in the last decade–through the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)–that worldwide recognition and acceptance of the human rights of children has come. Although the Indian government has ratified the convention, there continue to be gaps in stated intent, declaration, and practice.
Violations of rights have to be addressed and to make this happen laws and policies must be informed by a child-centered perspective. Child rights activists–while effectively addressing violations of child rights like economic exploitation, violence, denial of education and health–are grappling with making the linkages between the microlevel initiatives and the macrolevel interventions that are required to bring about change in the overall status of children, using the rights framework nationally and internationally.
Enakshi's initiative aims to influence policy through systematic monitoring of children, seeing how they are faring based on the impact of various arms of the government and its actions. She aims to use the findings to develop advocacy tools to work at the local and national levels; she wants to build on the gains achieved in the last decade and address newly identified needs. Principally, that means taking a holistic approach, making cross-cutting linkages between categories of children and the issues that concern them in all development initiatives, and creating a pressure mechanism that brings issue-based, narrow initiatives into a unified whole that collectively determines and monitors government functioning and action on behalf of children.
While there has been a limited amount of budget analysis in the social sector, there has been none in the field of child rights. Similarly, there has been little effort to systematically monitor child rights in the parliament or the judiciary–the necessary follow-up to any budget analysis.
The Budget Analysis from a Child Rights Perspective, the first of its kind in India, contained a study of the Union Budget that examined the Indian government's budgeting for children over the last 10 years. The budget study acts both as a vehicle for making the people in the government aware of the real situation and as an advocacy tool to sensitize planners on the need for resource allocation for children. The study is being used by the Indian parliamentarians and by activists.
Enakshi also advocates for policy-level interventions by raising public awareness and an understanding of children's rights and child-related issues. She organizes educational and training seminars and conferences geared toward specific target groups, especially the media. In addition, she lobbies for modifying and changing existing laws, policies, and practices. Notably, she makes policy-level interventions–monitoring national policies on children's issues and the government's implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child–by looking at the expenditures of the government for each category and issue so that the charter of rights determined under the convention can become a reality.
After the publication of a decadal child budget analysis by her organization, the Centre for Child Rights (HAQ), is the central government's Department of Women and Child Development decided to undertake a similar analysis. The department acknowledged that it had undertaken the analysis on the basis of HAQ's pioneering effort, and it adopted HAQ's budget analysis framework to monitor its own efforts. Enakshi and HAQ are now working with partners in three states to conduct state budget analyses. While the partners learn the process, they in turn become advocates and trainers in their own region. This effort will now be extended to other states. Enakshi is thus building member capacity to analyze and lobby in different regions.
Working in partnership with others to help broaden perspectives and determine priorities is the core of Enakshi's and her organization's approach. The combined strengths and capabilities of various groups and networks create a unified and credible voice to critical issues. A distinct aim of Enakshi's strategy is to build on the existing base and forge connections with national and international campaigns that will generate a research advocacy perspective. Her organization hosts the National Campaign against Trafficking of Children (CACT) and is closely associated with the Campaign Against Child Labour (CACL), the National Campaign for Right to Education (NAFRE), and the Task Force on Children and Conflict in India. It is also an associate member of Defense for Children International.
As HAQ is the National Secretariat of the Campaign Against Child Trafficking, Enakshi is working closely with members working against child trafficking in 17 states of the country to build a broader, more holistic understanding of all forms of trafficking. Although prostitution has come to be viewed synonymously with trafficking, children are also trafficked for labor, drug peddling, entertainment, organ trading, adoption, and marriage. The campaign is working both to broaden this understanding of trafficking in law and policy and to move resources accordingly. The communication process within the campaign is facilitated by the publication of a newsletter that demonstrates to the sectoral initiatives how advocacy can be fine-tuned through best practices to be more influential.
Having witnessed poor representation and performance of India in the United Nations General Assembly's Special Sessions for Children (June 2001), Enakshi, along with some other individuals, returned to unify the voices present at the session and form a joint forum for advocacy and lobbying. HAQ is a charter member of the India Alliance for Child Rights, a loose alliance of organizations, networks, campaigns, and individuals undertaking joint advocacy at the national and international levels.
HAQ designs and conducts training for several different categories of people who deal with children, as well as the children themselves. Although it has so far concentrated on citizen sector organizations, police, parents, and teachers, HAQ plans to undertake training of the legal community–judges, attorneys at law, prosecutors, government representatives and officials from relevant ministries, parliamentary groups, psychologists, pedagogues, and medical professionals, sociologists and social workers, media professionals, health workers, and others.
Through the dissemination of HAQ's budget reports and its regular analysis of the performance of elected representatives in parliament, Enakshi and her colleagues have identified parliamentarians to speak on behalf of children's issues on the basis of budget analyses. She sees this group as a substantive monitoring force a way for holding parliamentarians accountable.
Enakshi's parents were refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), and both participated in the freedom movement as students. Her father was a staunch Gandhian who later joined government service. Her mother was radical enough to take Enakshi, then a young girl, to the red light district of Calcutta to expose her to the harsh realities of life. Because her father held a transferable job, Enakshi spent her youth in many town and cities of the country in diverse cultural backgrounds. Her school in New Delhi believed in encouraging development of socially conscious and politically sensitive citizens and involved the students in various social projects. Enakshi spent her undergraduate years in a well-known women's college in Delhi University where she studied English literature. Her postgraduate degree is from Shillong in the northeastern region of India where she was born and which was her "home town" growing up. This is an area that has faced political disturbances for decades. Here Enakshi found out what it meant to live in a situation of ethnic conflict, to be regarded as an outsider in her birthplace, and where for the first time she became conscious of her identity and the insecurity of being a child of refugee parents, settled in place they could not call their own, and where they were viewed with suspicion. She had to grapple with the reality that the political situation was a result of long discrimination and oppression. The situation made her acutely conscious of the needs of children in conflict and the need to address their rights.
During her first job in the Indian Social Institute, Enakshi's work involved funding other programs, dealing with them largely on a sectoral basis, or as part of community development initiatives. The work gave her a broad understanding of development initiatives, but it did not give her an opportunity to gain an in-depth and cohesive understanding of any one issue. While in MARG (Multiple Action and Research Group), she became part of an initiative for campaigning against the new Child Labor Bill (1986-87) that regulated work for children instead of abolishing it. It was her first experience in networking, issue-based understanding, and witnessing how parliamentarians and policymakers work. Through the 1980s her work in MARG concentrated on development and displacement issues, and everywhere she noticed how children represented an unaddressed category, treated only as members of a family. The work also enabled her to focus on the needs and rights of displaced children. However, working on displacement and rehabilitation exposed her to campaigning and lobbying at local, national, and international levels. Her six-week internship at the Children's Defense Fund in the United States as a Ford Foundation Advocacy Fellow helped her to fine-tune her strategies for advocacy.She had peripheral exposure to the Child Rights Convention when it was being debated at the beginning of 1989. Her research studies on domestic violence demonstrated that children were a vulnerable group cutting across class and gender, and her eyes were opened to the need of addressing violence against boy children. In 1995, while participating in the Salzburg Seminar, she was introduced to children's programs around the world working at all levels; the experience sharpened her understanding of the Child Rights Convention. In 1996-97 she set up a Women and Child Cell within MARG and spent time in a government-run children's home in Delhi. She had firsthand experience in early childhood care from Mobile Crèches which provides early childhood care and education by setting up crèches for children of migrant workers, jail inmates, and families in slums. During this period, she read an article about a child found dead in a government-run boys home in Delhi. That, coupled with her organization's failure to take up the issue because it did not fall within their mandate, made Enakshi realize the need for intervention that looks closely and exclusively at children.
During a short stint at the Population Council, working on advocacy on Reproductive and Child Health (1996-98), Enakshi continued to mull over the concept. In 1998 she wrote the first concept note and circulated it to a range of people working in the field of development, other professionals interested in children, and some donor agencies. It was on the basis of this initial note that she was able to bring together like-minded persons who believed in the need for such an initiative. When efforts to locate this initiative in an existing organization did not materialize, HAQ was born. It was formally registered in June 1999.