Minister of Women, Children, and Senior Citizen, Parbat Gurung interacted with children during Save the Children and Community Information Network’s (CIN)‘Ministers with Children’ - a campaign designed to elevate the voices of children in COVID-19 discussions, with the aim to make elected representatives and policy-makers more accountable towards the need and challenges of children in Nepal.
The Minister in an hour-long live radio broadcast from the Community Information Network (CIN), broadcast from 300 + community FM stations, interacted and answered questions posed bychildren on COVID-19 and its effect in their lives. A 15 years old girl from Nepalgunj requested the minister to address the issue of lack of child-friendly spaces in the quarantine centers. “Children who tested positivefor COVID-19 have to stay apart from their parents. These centers are not child-friendly, and they have to undergo fear and anxiety.” Minister Gurung assured that the development of child-friendly spaces is one of the priorities of the government, and sincere efforts are being made to ensure that mental health and well-being of children living in quarantine centers is not compromised.
“Children are facing unprecedented challenges, which has increased anxiety and fear inside them. The government would like to reassure that children’s issuesare kept in the center-stage of COVID-19 discussion, and we will be focusing our efforts in ensuring their well-being,” shared, Minister Gurung. He also committed that the holistic well-being and protection of children will be ensured in the “national strategy”, and the children’s act will also be amended to embed critical issues raised by children in behest of emergencies. “In order to make policies more meaningful for children, it is important to listen to children and make sure that we act on their recommendations,” he concluded.
Save the Children had previously conductedstate level ‘Minister with Children’ campaign in KarnaliState and State number 2. Violence against children, mental health, poverty and price hike, child marriage, digital divide and education gap, communal harmony and rumor management, lack of child friendly spaces in quarantine centers were the foremost issues raised by the children in the campaign. The Minister for Social Development, KarnaliState, Dal Rawal had committed to disinfect schools which were used as quarantine centers andto ensure a safetransition back to schools. Similarly, Nawal Kishore Shah, the Minister for Social Development, State number 2 committed to introduce child-friendly distance learning tools through popular media to address the education gap witnessed due to COVID-19 crisis. Children participated in the campaign through phone calls, social media, and through the Interactive Voice Receiver (IVR) – where children recorded their concerns and questions for the Federal and State Governments.
Speaking about the campaign, Bandana Risal, the Interim Country Director of Save the Children in Nepal expressed that the ‘Ministers with Children” national campaign resonates to Protect a Generation, Save the Children’s global response strategy to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the COVID-19 crisis. “Through this campaign, we would like to call upon policymakers, elected representatives, child-rights organizations to work towards, mitigating the impact of the pandemic on child survival, helping children learn, stay safe, and return to school, supporting family survival and food security through safety nets, and keeping children, families, and communities safe,” expressed Risal.
As part of the campaign, Save the Children will collaborate with concerned line ministries, and submit insights and evidence garnered through the ‘Ministers with Children’ campaign to advocate for child-centered policies and plans to protect the rights of children during emergencies.