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Elections 2024: Children demand gender-rights for sexual minority, vulnerable kids

By Jag Jivan 

Thousands of children from across the country recently gathered online to release their unique ‘Election Manifesto -- of, for and by children’ in the hope of influencing the manifestos of all political parties, if not each individual candidate, seeking to contest the upcoming General Election in 2024. The vote4me campaign is an effort to rally 4 million VOTE(s) (Voices Of The Empowered Children).
While accepting their disenfranchised status as citizens below the age of 18, these young citizens seek to influence election manifestos and the narrative of election campaigns with real issues that are of concern to young people in the hope that their intervention would influence public opinion and political will towards improving the life situations of 400 million of their peers and that of their mother earth. They further vowed to engage at least 1% (4 million) of their Indian peers in the run up to general elections scheduled for May, 2024.
Quoting from their NINEISMINE declaration, Nikky the Union Minister of the National Inclusive Children's Parliament (NICP) said, ”We the children of India, may not be voters but we believe that the voices of children can be stronger than the votes of adults and that it is necessary for us to speak up now, to secure our future.”
The demands of the children ranged from issues related to budgets, healthcare, accessibility and rights for, advocacy by and trust (protection) of all children particularly the last (and most vulnerable) children of India. The child-anchors of the event summarized their list of demands in the word BHARAT even as they sought to strengthen and nurture their Incredible Nation Dedicated to the Inclusion of All.
Children belonging to child rights organizations and schools from across the country presented their list of demands in Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Tamil, Telugu and even sign language. They aim to have this manifesto translated in all major languages of India if not in all its regional languages and local dialects.
Ruksar Rehman (17), the child-president of the NICP insisted: 
"As a child, I seek child rights for all children. As a girl, I seek gender-rights for all sexual minorities, as a Muslim, I seek rights for all vulnerable Indians, as a member of our Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, I seek earth rights for all earthlings.” In short Rehman insisted, “I seek All Rights for all Indians, because only then India will be alright for all Indians.”
NINEISMINE is a national campaign that seeks to respond to the call to ‘end poverty and social exclusion’ through the realization of the global goals.This child-led initiative is run exclusively by children and for children principally through their neighborhood children’s parliaments. The campaign is convened by PRATYeK, a registered organization that has UN ECOSOC Status.
Five thousand children in the country were consulted in local communities by their own peers towards the creation of this manifesto. The National Council of Ministers (NICOT) later placed the emerging recommendations before their own cabinet of ministers and child-rights experts before finalizing the same.
The children consulted included those with disabilities, those hailing from minority communities, refugees, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, those in urban slums, children identifying as LGBTQIA++, those dealing with mental health issues and others, referred to as the 'Last Child' in this manifesto.
Children had earlier articulated these recommendations for their exclusive child-led Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report to the UN in the last review of their beloved nation in 2021. The children summarized their aspirations from their Motherland and their elected representatives in their slogan ‘Bacchon Ka Vikas, Desh ka Vikas Sansar ka Vikas, Sab Ka Vikas.’ (The development of children leads to the development of the country, of the world and of everyone.)
Shradhima (13) a child minister from Cooch Behar Annashristi, a child rights organization in West Bengal, shared the children’s recommendations on their health and survival of every child. She claimed that "Make India, free from child marriage, child trafficking, child poverty, child labour and child abuse" were important for her because she believed that ‘all rights for all children’ was her dream for India and the world.
The child-citizen’s attending the virtual event were unanimous in their endorsement of their belief that children “presently may be 36% of India’s citizens but 100% of India’s future.”
We children ask candidates to not forget our issues. We all want demands to be included at the forefront of the manifesto
The Children’s Manifesto ends with the following demand: 
“We, the children of India, finally seek that each political party and individual candidate devotes one day each year to report to children on the progress each has made in fulfilling their child-centered promises. This, we believe, would underline your commitment to these promises.”
Avidha Golwalkar, Associate Project Director, Vacha Charitable Trust, recalled the evolution of the vote4me anthem. She stated that the unique methodology of involving children in the creation of their only manifesto and later their vote4me anthem, was a powerful experience that underlined the efforts of this campaign to model genuine participation of children.
One of the lyrics of one of the verses of the vote4me anthem reads: 
“We children ask the candidates contesting elections to not forget our issues. We all want our demands to be included at the forefront of the manifesto. When all children grow and prosper, then the country will develop”.
Swarnalaxmi Ravi, the former Prime Minister of the NICP informed the gathering that 120 child prime-ministers from neighborhood children’s parliaments across 120 parliamentary constituencies across the country will assemble in Delhi at the end of January, to interact with all political parties in Delhi to seek the adoption of their children’s manifesto, even as children in local neighborhood communities are invited to interact with their local candidates to represent children’s expectations from their potential legislators. Swarnalaxmi leads the South Zone coordination of the NICP despite being challenged with total visual impairment.
Steve Rocha, the national convener of NINEISMINE campaign concluded:
"The purpose of involving children in world’s largest exercise of democracy, was to ensure that India led the world in setting a non-negotiable standard of genuinely engaging children in all policy-making moments including elections.
"It is important that India through each of its elected representatives is educated through this exercise to see children as active and engaged citizens of today - with meaningful experiences, realistic aspirations and unique recommendations, rather than citizens of the future.”

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