Over the recent past, CINI has undergone a methodological shift in its policy and action by adopting a human rights-based approach in the development work that it carries out among poor Indian communities. While the Child in Need does not have her fundamental needs met yet, the Child with Rights is being supported in having a voice and fulfilling her fundamental entitlements as a matter of right. CINI’s rights-based approach aims at creating Child Friendly Community, where families, schools, police stations, social and physical settings are committed to respect, protect and fulfill children’s rights in the spheres of health, nutrition, education and protection from all forms of abuse, exploitation and violence. As key rights-holders, children and women are encouraged to participate in making decisions that affect their lives. Primary duty-bearers are supported in fulfilling their rights, in particular,
CINI acts as a facilitator in engaging local development actors – the community, service providers and elected representatives – in a process aimed to strengthen good governance with and for children and women. Local governance partners are involved in participatory processes leading to increasing awareness on problems affecting the community, identifying issues through social mapping, planning interventions to address shared priorities, and monitoring the progressive fulfilment of human rights by all, especially the socially excluded. Children and women are leaders in transforming their communities to make them inclusive to the most marginalised and poor sections.
CINI has involved its staff at all levels in developing the Child Friendly Community approach as a way to implement all of its programmes in the areas of health, nutrition, education and protection in a holistic and child-centred manner. In the process, CINI has been progressively shifting from an emphasis on direct service provision to a focus on facilitating governance processes aimed to enhance access to services, programmes and budgets that are increasingly being made available in India, especially by government. CINI’s goal is to empower the community and engage duty-bearers in fulfilling the fundamental entitlements of rights-holders, especially deprived children and women.
Child Friendly Community are being piloted in rural as well as urban settings, in Kolkata Municipal Corporation and in the Districts of Diamond Harbour, Murshidabad, South 24 Parganas, Jalpaiguri, Uttar Dinajpur in West Bengal, and in Khunti in Jharkhand.In such settings, tripartite partnerships of community, service providers and local elected representatives work to institutionalise participatory governance processes with the involvement of women and children’s groups, drafting child and woman-focused multi-sectoral development plans on the basis of data collected through social mapping, and developing participatory children’s budgets. They also monitor compliance by duty-bearers in ensuring access by all children to equitable social services and opportunities for participation.
People’s empowerment helps internalise fundamental rights and demand services as entitled citizens. Women’s self-help groups have become members of several government forums, such as the Gram Unnayan Samity, the Village Education Committee, the Village-level Child Protection Committee, the Village Health Nutrition Day, the Ward Committee. Young people have organised themselves in Bal Panchayat, which provides a platform to engage local decision-makers in issues affecting children.
Community-driven monitoring systems have been established to allow the community to analyse gaps and identify solutions in accessing services, together with service providers and local government representatives. Over the past 5 years, in Murshidabad, participatory implementation and stringent monitoring have resulted in increasing school enrolment from 59 to 90%, while rising institutional delivery from 31 to 61%. In parallel, the social and physical environment in which communities live has been made more fitting to children with the creation of child-friendly corners, child-friendly schools, child-friendly police stations and community-wide safety nets.