On its long journey since 1946, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has contributed more to the well-being of global children than any other organisation. Yet it took long 44 years to recognise the special rights of young ones who are too tender and weak to defend themselves. But ever since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) took off in 1990, there has been amazing progress on the child front in terms of mortality at birth and before the age of five, primary school attendance and significant gain in health and nutrition. Yet for children in many parts of the globe and segments of them within a country, life is miserable and opportunities for overcoming the odds are next to nothing. A sizeable proportion of the world's children are doomed to suffer the generational travail of poverty, illiteracy, ill health and deprivation of all kinds.
It is against this background, the UNICEF, on the occasion of observance of the 30th UN CRC and the World's Children's Day, has perhaps focused on involving more children than ever before with a series of discourses with policymakers. The last round of such a face-to-face plenary between children and people's representatives as also child experts was held at Dhaka on Saturday last. Before this, the government and the UNICEF organised eight rounds of such a platform for exchange of views. The idea is to learn from the horse's mouth the problems facing them and what recipe they can think of to solve those hindrances. Clearly, the motive behind this initiative is appreciable. But much depends on the attendance. Did some children from the deprived and distressed segment of society represent their kind and if they did, were they prepared, encouraged and allowed to speak their mind freely?
Even an organisation of UNICEF's order cannot reach every hapless child in all corners of a country; but the government, if it is so committed, can surely do. When the issue is child rights, it must not bypass even a single child no matter to which family or place it is born. Bangladesh's achievement in primary enrolment has been duly recognised and still 4.3 million children between 6 and 15 years of age are out of school. Why? The conditions that disfavour them to continue need immediate identification. School attendance cannot be seen as an isolated phenomenon, it is interlinked to socio-economic conditions of parents. So drop-outs or non-attendance of these children must be analysed in right perspectives.
Finally, the question that needs to be asked is, if the condition prevailing in the country is conducive to healthy growth of children's body and mind. The simple answer is 'not'. An unenviable education system, corrupt practices resorted to by elders for amassing wealth, deficit in the rule of law, widespread social discriminations and economic disparities combine together to make a mockery of equal opportunities for all children. Only in rare cases do a handful of children fight the overwhelming odds to live a better life. When a most child-friendly environment will be created in this country and elsewhere to bring all children out of the hopeless abyss, human civilisation will reap its multifarious benefits.