Ashok Kumar Nayak

Institutionalized Child Protection in GPDP, potential for policy action on Child Participation.

“It has been wonderful experience for children like us to engage with Child Friendly Village Campaign for last three years. We enjoy going to local officials, Panchayt representatives, police. We also participated in PRI planning meeting and share our appeal. I am happy that our Panchayat is been sensible to our appeal and taken initiative like migration register, keeping provision for child protection activities under Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP). Thanks for ActionAid for creating these space CFV campaign is truly empowering” Laboni Barman class X from Manmathanagar High School, Gosaba (April 2023).

India, as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC), is committed to ensure children to enjoy their right to survival, development, protection, and participation. The National Policy for Children (NPC) 2013 re-affirms the commitment to the realization of the rights. The role of local self-governance/ Panchat Raj Institution (PRI) is critical to strengthening child rights governance at community level.

The PRI are the nearest and closest to the children to understand, take action and monitor children’s situation within their community. It is important for PRI to include child rights agendas in their annual development planning for holistic socio-economic development, through leveraging and implementation of Government Schemes. This article is to share experience of a three year long adolescent lead campaign focusing on incorporating the child rights activities and budget to the agenda of PRI in West Bengal. The campaign continuing since October 2020 under the banner of Child Friendly Village Campaign.

The Secretary P & RD, Govt of West Bengal issued letter on 14thNovember 2022 to all the District Magistrates of West Bengal to follow 9 thematic areas while doing the planning for Annual Gram Panchayat Development Plan in the year 2023-24, one among the theme is for promoting Child Friendly Gram Panchayat. The themes are arranged according to the Sustainable Development Goal. The basic focus is local self-government to incorporate child protection agenda to their planning.

In the year 2014, West Bengal laid down guidelines for Village and Block Level Child Protection Committees (VLCPC & BLCPC) where elected PRI is the chairperson of CPCs at different levels. The CPC guidelines were revised in the year 2022, which advise to form Gram Panchayat Level Child Protection Committee (GLCPC) and continue the responsibility of PRI (Gram Panchayat Pradhan)as chairperson of the GLCPC. The Panchayat have a central role to play as chairperson in community level Child Protection Committees for effective community level child protection mechanism at village and GP level. So, the activities and budget in the GPDP 2023-24 are expected to institutionalize child protection concerns at community level.


The Child-Friendly Village (CFV) campaign initiative isled by adolescent leaders was started in the year 2020. The basic focus of the campaign is to promote the notion of a child-friendly village and institutionalized the role of PRI in ensuring child protection and bring child protection as part of the development agenda of PRI. The campaign began during COVID (in September 2020) period, and inspiration taken was taken Hon’ble Calcutta High Court expressed concern on the issue of child protection during COVIV-19 and emphasis the role of PRI in child protection during COVID-19 period.

Around 200 Adolescent leaders across the districts have led this campaign and submitted appeal letters to their respective local self-Government / PRI representatives for inclusion of Child focus activities in the annual gram panchayat development plan. To amplify the campaign prototype appeals were also submitted to the different relevant stakeholders from local administration to the District Magistrate,

religious leaders, CWCs, local MLAs, MPs etc. The campaign is facilitated by ActionAid Association NGO now working as technical partner to provide child protection system strengthening in 6 most vulnerable districts of West Bengal as partner UNICEF.

The Child Friendly Village Campaign’s Travel from September 2020 to January 2023:

CFV Campaign Year One – 2020:

The CFV campaign was started in September 2020 across 9 districts of West Bengal (South 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Malda, Dakshin Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Cooch Behar, Birbhum and East Medinipur).  In November 2020, the Chairperson of WBCPCR issued a letter to above mentioned District Magistrate for the inclusion of Child Protection (CP) activities in the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) for the financial year 2021-22. As a part of campaign, the adolescent leaders continue to submit appeal to their respective PRIs and other stakeholders for the inclusion of Child Protection activities in GPDP. In few districts letters were issued by district officials (ADM, DPDRDO) to blocks for the inclusion.

CFV Campaign Year Two – 2021:

The campaign was started in 110 villages in the year 2020 in the year 2022 it reached 489 Sansad, around 39 GPs, and 18 blocks in 9 different districts. The adolescent leader again started their campaign in Sept-October 2021. In September 2021 the child protection unit of UNICEF West Bengal was invited by STARPARD (Society for Training & Research on Panchayats & Rural Development   unit of the Govt of WB for capacity building of P&RD functionaries on GPDP) to the state-level orientation programme for an orientation on child protection issue and on the inclusion of child protection issues in GPDP 2022-23. Then the partner of UNICEF and Action Aid was given the responsibility to orient the district and block officials and panchayat representatives to support for this inclusion of CP in GPDP 2022-23. This initiative of STARTPARD & UNICEF provided synergy and strength to the CFV campaign. Adolescent leaders continue to submit the appeal to their PRI members and prototype to the district officials, such as District Magistrate, Additional District Magistrate, BDO, Police Officials and community opinion leaders like religious leaders. In this second years of campaign in many places, the adolescent leaders were invited to the PRI planning meetings and Gram Sabhas to share their views and submit their appeals.

CFV Campaign Year Three – 2022:

In November 2022, the Secretary of the P&RD dep., Govt. WB issued a letter on GPDP 2023-24, where ‘Child-Friendly Panchayat’ was mentioned as one of the 9 thematic areas. This letter has built further synergy to the campaign to amplify the appeal to include the soft components such as child-centric awareness, mobilization activities in GPDP. ActionAid also provided support at Block and GP levels by mapping out the scope within the prescribed protocol of thematic areas and activities. Again, letters were issued at the district and Block level for the inclusion of child focus activities in GPDP 2023-24.

The adolescent leaders continue to shared the appeal with suggested list of activities to the PRIs also explored all possible opportunities to share their views in different consultations, meetings, during celebrations of important days and government flagship campaigns like Duare Sarkar, and through different awareness activities. The adolescent leaders were invited by the local government during different occasions to share their view on child protection.

Activities during the campaign:

Adolescent leaders (from schools/ Kanyashree Clubs, CPCs, Kishori groups, RKSK groups) have been leading this campaign since the beginning of the campaign in 2020. While meeting with the stakeholders

the adolescents have taken a collective pleading, tied wrist bands to the stakeholder, and participated in the events like extempore speech, essay competitions, and postercompetitions, and theme-based street plays were organized on different occasions.

The adolescent leaders also developed posters and used pre-recorded audio messages during the campaign. They reached the PRI members, local administration, police and other relevant stakeholders and discussed the significance of Child-Friendly Village.

The campaign has been a platform for adolescent leaders through different creative expressions of their views, enabling space to expand their mobility, and access to different duty bearers even up to the point of the District Magistrate to the Member of Parliament, Members of Legislative Assembly, Superintendent of Police, and UNICEF state office.

Outcome of the Campaign:

Inclusion of child protection components in GPDP of almost 24 percent of Gram Panchayats in the year 2022-23.

Inclusion child focus budget in GPDP 2022-23 of worth INR132,915,865 in 823 numbers of GPs. And in 2023-24 INR.6,76,10,388 budgeted in focus 20 Gram Panchayats where campaign was organized.

Emergence of proactive vibrant adolescent leaders across remote vulnerable pockets of the state and leaders witness numbers of progressive social initiatives within their communities and school.

Increasing incidents of the interface between Child Protection Committees members with PRIs.

Special Gram Sabhas organised where children played an active role to discuss the importance of incorporating child protection issues in GPDP.

Adolescent leaders have been interacting with the PRI leaders for since last three years, and that has created a scope for institutionalizing child participation in local self-governance. A connection was established between UNCRC, SPAC, SDG, and local self-governance.

The campaign hasbeen led by adolescent leaders across the district, that creates vibrant examples of child participation in the state, this potential need to translate into policy action further institutionalize the role of children to ensure their rights. The UNCRC (Article 12) and SDG (Goal 16 which covers children’s responsibilities of local self-governance institutions) as well as SDG’s Targets and Indicators that PRI aspires to achieve and effectively implement by 2030.

UNCRC on Child Participation in Local Governance:

Child participation can refer to many different aspects of a child’s engagement with the world around her/him. Participation in the context of governance is often considered under article 12 of UNCRC, which recognizes a child’s right to be heard or express views freely, to have her/his views considered seriously in decision-making, and to have a government that ensuresthe realization of this right.

Relentless efforts of CFV campaign by adolescent leaders created potential for further strengthening the child participation in West Bengal, India. Though West Bengal has been progressive in having 4 adolescent representatives (aged 12 to 18) in CPCs. Furthermore, West Bengal’s PRI structure has a sub-committee named Nari, Sishu Unnayan 0 Samaj Kalyan Upa-Samiti, which has a focused responsibility to take care of child development. Now it deserves a policy call and action for mainstreaming the child participation in the state.

Till now across India child participation remains with the formation of a child parliament in school, children club, and some civic engagements by CSOs. The Need is now to thought through more progressively, concrete policies and robust operational guidance for creating enabling space for effectively taking forward the notion of child participation.

“We have incorporated the child protection activities in the annual development plan of Gram Panchayat for the Financial Year 2023-24. We have initiated migration register at Sansad level with the help of ActionAid Association, where the name and other details of the people who migrated for livelihood and other reasons for a longer period are being registered. The children who are left at home or who are also migrated with or without their parents, are also being identified easily. We regularly participate and interact on child protection issues. The village level and gram panchayat level child protection committees have also been formed. I am happy that the children from our panchayat leading a ‘child friendly village’ campaign and interacting with us on child protection issues and block level officials. This campaign is much appreciated.”


(The Author is a development professional, associated with research and advocacy on developmental issues based in Kolkata)