4 children. 2 International events. 1 message – Children are citizens today.

Four children,  Puneeth (14) and Vidya (15), Venkatesh (18) and Annapurna (16), democratically elected from their children’s groups,  representing 190 school children’s unions/organizations and 56 children’s panchayats (Children’s Local Government) from Udupi, Karnataka represented India at two international events last month.  They were accompanied by adults from The Concerned for Working Children (CWC). They came back with great learnings, insights and most importantly – a higher level of confidence. They speak of their journeys and their enriching experiences here.

Puneet and Vidya at the Children as Actors for Transforming Society (CATS) held in Caux, Switzerland

CATS is a weeklong conference set in the beautiful mountains of Caux, Switzerland. It aims to enable children, young people and adults who are advocates for the rights and well-being of children to work together as agents of change and co-creators of a more just, sustainable, inclusive and equitable society. The event had 450 participants, including children and adults, from 41 countries from around the world. The children along with members of CWC also facilitated comprehensive workshops on ‘Children & Research’ and ‘Monitoring & Evaluation’ for the other participants. They spoke from their experience of supporting and participating in the Monitoring and Evaluation of Children’s Participation Toolkit process.* The creation of this Toolkit involved ten projects across nine countries in different regions of the world, in partnership with Save the Children, UNICEF, Plan, World Vision and The Concerned for Working Children. They also shared the methods utilized by them for resolving children’s issues in their village through the collectives’ efforts of information management.

Vidya: Children from 56 panchayats had chosen 60 children amongst us to attend various forums as the children’s representatives. From this group of 60, we children had further shortlisted 10 children to attend the international conferences in August. I was among the 10. Then one Sunday, when I was told that I was chosen by the children to attend a conference in Switzerland, I was thrilled! My friends in my group ran to nearby shops, bought sweets and shared it, expressing their joy at my selection!















Puneeth: I was earlier selected by my group to attend a workshop in Ghana last year. But could not go for it due to unavailability of Yellow Fever vaccine. Then one day, Vanajakka from CWC came by and told me that I was soon to go to Switzerland to participate in a conference there! I was really surprised and happy. Also a little worried as this was the first time I was going abroad.














Vidya and Puneeth: Over the next few weeks, we had extensive preparatory sessions lined up for us.  Children in our groups helped us identify and finalize the issues which we would be speaking about at the conference. We had several rehearsals to perfect the ‘Hejje’ (Footprints) and Body Mapping tools which we use to identify and resolve issues within our communities. We recalled all the incidents, challenges and our experiences while using these tools to solve a problem in our village.

We finally boarded our flight to Switzerland on 27th July 4.45am. It was a great feeling for both of us because this is the first time we were flying in an aircraft! It was very cool inside and there was a TV behind each seat. Though we were tired and sleepy, we played games and watched animated films on the small TV. We reached Geneva at noon around 2.30pm on 27th, but discovered that all our check in baggage was missing! Anyways, we decided to proceed as we had a lot to achieve and had no hours to spare.

Vidya: I was very scared and nervous, when they announced that I was going to speak of our group’s achievements in the Main Hall. Actually, I had prepared for a 20 minute presentation, but was informed in the last minute that the duration was reduced to 10 minutes. I was really confused about how I could condense all that I had to say in 10 minutes. I started my speech by narrating how children in my village collectively tackled the problem of alcoholism. I encouraged children present in the auditorium to engage on issues of governance and recognize that they are citizens today. I even asked everybody to shout out the slogan ‘Children are citizens today’! There was a great round of applause from the audience. I think there were around 300 to 350 people including children. I was very happy and was proud of myself because I had done my life’s first presentation on a foreign soil with such a great support! I was hugged and congratulated over and over again.

Monitoring and Evaluation Session

Puneeth: I was very scared and anxious about delivering a speech in a foreign land. I was confident presenting in front of my people and my group members but this was totally a new experience of speaking in front of people from different countries. I started rehearsing  with Vidya’s help.
Ramesh and Biplaw (CWC facilitators who accompanied us) encouraged me to speak confidently without worrying who is in the audience. I was also aware that the session was being recorded and I had to do my best.  Finally, I started my speech by narrating one of our success stories of getting a bridge built across the stream in my village. I showed the paper cutting of the news and the photo of the newly built bridge. People were very interested. Everyone in the small hall applauded and appreciated our work. I was very happy!

Introducing Body Mapping Tool


Vidya: I was a little tensed when I started the session. I had prepared for a systematic step-by-step introduction but due to nervousness, muddled it up in some places. I said that I was just going to school, home, to my relatives’ places but after becoming a member of my group I was able to travel to different places in and around my village, as part of the survey team where we conducted a survey throughout our village to identify problems and issues faced by the children in the village where we could identify 47 such problems and have been able to get 17 of them solved. I am here because of those achievements of my group. I have been able to travel to a place like Switzerland which is nearly 7000 kilometers away from my country and that’s a proof of my participation.

Vidya and Puneeth: The most important thing we realized, is that the conference widened our vision and our thoughts. All the while, we assumed that we were the only children, or our village or country that had problems, but after meeting with several organizations and learning the situation of the children in their respective countries, we felt that our problems are not that serious comparing to them.

Venkatesh and Annapurna at the St. Olav’s Festival held in Trondheim, Norway


It is one of the largest cultural festivals in Norway with almost 300 events organized within it. The delegation from India was there to participate in a series of sessions on ‘Children’s Right to be Heard’ that were organized by the Trondheim City Council for the Trondheim Youth Council and the marginalized children of the region.  CWC has been working with the city council of Trondheim since last year to shape these sessions on ‘Children’s right to be heard’. Venkatesh, Annapurna and CWC members were there as a group to facilitate, participate and engage with the local Youth Councils and marginalized children. Two workshops on Children and Governance and Information Management for problem intervention were undertaken by the Indian group. These workshops looked at understanding more deeply the nature of participation in governance by children. The children from India presented their experiences of resolving issues within their panchayats through their collectives and shared the methodology used by them. These sessions were also utilized to create tools which would be used to present Norway’s Youth Council’s own issues and vision.

Venkatesh: When I was 12 years old, I had represented India at a child rights conference held in Luxemburg. That was a very empowering and fruitful experience. Then when I was told that I was going to attend the St. Olav’s Festival in Norway in August 2014, I was really excited. I knew that this event would further develop my skills and also help me enable my friends back home more effectively, just like the Luxemburg event did.

Annapurna: The people in my village did not react too well when they realized that I am selected to go for this conference. They were apprehensive about me missing school and tried persuading my parents against sending me. But luckily, my parents had earlier seen how the Bhima Sangha (children’s unioun) and its activities have created positive changes in my older sister who was an active member of the sangha. They allowed me to go for the conference. Thank God, they did!

Venkatesh and Annapurna: Our journey was not confirmed until the last moment because we had trouble getting our visas. However, we continued with our extensive preparation for the conference. We knew that we are representing our children’s groups, our state and our country. It is our voices that have to convey the issues and concerns that our friends are facing. We discussed at length with our sanghas and rehearsed the tools that we were going to introduce at the conference.

We finally got our visas on the day we were to travel. The journey was pleasant except that we realized in Oslo that our check in baggage was missing. Not only our clothes, but also all the material that we needed for the conference were in those bags. We were very worried that we may not be able to present effectively because our session was scheduled for the very next day! Anyways, we managed to recreate all the material on the day we landed and made a remarkable presentation after all! We were proud of ourselves for achieving this.

Annapurna: What we really wanted to convey to other children from across the world is that they can make a difference in their lives and the society they live in by exercising child rights. We shared our experience of getting a dangerous stone quarry in Aloor filled and made safe. The other participants at the conference were amazed at how we children identified and resolved such issues by bringing  it up in the local government meetings.

Annapurna speaking of her achievements back home

Venkatesh: We had extensive conversations regarding marginalized and homeless children in Norway. They were struggling for their rights and we children from across the globe  tried using our experiences back home to see how they can be used to alleviate the lives of these children. We composed a song as well, speaking of child rights and this experience taught me that songs and music are also powerful mediums of communication we children can use.

Venkatesh and Annapurna: Back in our village, we children had devised a method of communicating to and holding the local government responsible for problems we children were facing. We tie red ribbons signifying our demands on a pole or a tree set in a prominent location in the village. When a demand was met or resolved, we changed the red ribbon to a white ribbon. Inspired by our process, the Trondheim Youth Council also decided to adopt this method to put forth demands to the State Council. So, in the presence of Svein Harberg, Leader of the Parliament Committee on Families, Children and Culture and Laila Bokhari, State Secretary for the Prime Minister of Norway we tied red ribbons around a tree in front of the Nidaros Cathedral which is one of the most significant cultural and historical spots in the country. We tied a ribbon on behalf of the international community of children demanding that children’s right to be heard be added to the Constitutions of all countries and participation of the most marginalized especially be guaranteed.

Red Ribbon Ceremony

We are back from Norway with a lot of learning and insights.  We are proud of our achievements in Norway, but also aware that we have a great responsibility of sharing our experiences and learnings with our friends who chose us to represent them at Norway.

*If you are keen on understanding and learning about our Research Facilitation Tools, do write to us at arpita.cwc@gmail.com with a statement of purpose and we will surely get back to you.

You can know more about CWC’s involvement, facilitation and participation in these events by reading the Press Releases here. 

Vidya, Puneeth, Venkatesh and Annapurna’s recount of their journeys were transcribed and translated to English from conversations we had with them post their trips.

  • When you look into a child’s eyes you expect to see hope, trust and innocence; but when you see these signs of childhood are replaced by betrayal, hunger, fear & suspicion, we need to take a serious stock of ourselves and the society we have created.

    - Nandana Reddy | CWC

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