The three day historic meeting of SAARC countries ends with a commitment to set up a uniform toll free Helpline for children across the region

The three day historic meeting of SAARC countries ends with a commitment to set up a uniform toll free Helpline for children across the region

Member countries to cooperate on ICT initiatives to trace missing children, on the lines of Track child and Khoya paya

The three day historic meeting of South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) ended in New Delhi today with a stepped up commitment to promote child rights and safety and security of children in the SAARC region. The meeting saw an enthusiastic participation of Ministers and delegates from across the SAARC region. The Union Home Minister, Government of India, Shri Rajnath Singh was the Chief Guest at today’s Ministerial meeting.

The inaugural was followed by the business sessions for which the Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Government of India, Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi was elected as the Chairperson and Secretary, WCD, Shri V Somasundaran  as the co-chair and the Agenda for future cooperation was adopted unanimously.

Smt Maneka Gandhi reiterated the need for working together and concrete action to address issues. As many of our problems are interdependent , she stated, such as that of trafficking; interdependent learning and initiative would result in saving thousands of lives, and called upon all the nations to show will and determination.

Welcoming the distinguished dignitaries, delegates and representatives from the government and civil society, Shri V. Somasundaran, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, outlined the objectives of the 4th Ministerial Meeting while expressing the hope that the forum would provide the necessary focus and impetus in creating a safer world for the children of the region. He also hoped that the deliberations would see increased knowledge and understanding, and enhanced intra- and inter-regional cooperation around the thematic issues of SAIEVAC.

The official statement of H.E. Mr. Arjun Bahadur Thapa, Secretary General of SAARC was presented by Mr. Sangye Rinchhen, Director, SAARC Secretariat. Mr. Bahadur traced the various initiatives of SAARC and commended the positive work done by SAIEVAC under its present leadership on issues related to children, particularly in the areas of eliminating violence against children, child marriage and corporal punishment. He called upon the Member states of SAARC to re-energize the processes and mechanisms related to children and urged them to move beyond recommendations and agreements and putting more attention and resources towards their implementation. Expressing his gratitude to the Government of India for hosting the high level meeting, he hoped that the commitment of all the leaders of the various nations, joint efforts and hard work will translate into tangible actions which will have a positive impact on the lives of children of South Asia.

Statements were made by the Ministers, Dr. Nasrin Oryakhil (Afghanistan), Lyonpo Dorji Chochen (Bhutan), Ms. Mariyam Azra, Maldives and Ms. Vijayakala Maheshwaran, Sri Lanka. All the Ministries of the region shared the achievements and initiatives of their respective countries and laid emphasis on the great value added by SAIEVAC to the work of securing the wellbeing of children. The need for greater collaboration and prioritisation of children’s issues was emphasised and focus on working on eliminating child labour and addressing trafficking in the region was reinforced.

The Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled of Afghanistan, Dr. Nasrin Oryakhil  mentioned child labour and child marriage as major issues impacting children’s development and expressed the hope that the SAIEVAC initiatives would lead to solutions.

The representative of   Bhutan spoke of the need to go beyond political boundaries and come together for collective action to end violence against children. Bhutan has a Child Protection Act as well Child Adoption Act that provides a legislative framework for vulnerable children.

The Minister of Law and Gender of Maldives, Ms Mariyam Azra outlined her country’s commitment to children. Maldives also has a “No child left behind” policy to ensure that all children are educated

The Minister of Child Affairs of Sri Lanka, Ms Vijayakal Maheswaran highlighted her government’s initiatives to address the needs and rights of children affected and orphaned by conflict.

The representative of Government of Bangladesh informed that they have a National Plan of action. They have a National Children’s Act. Child marriage is a major issue in the country and the government has contributed to SAIEVAC’s campaign to end child marriage.

Nepal has institutionalized child participation that provides for consultation with children at every step.

Pakistan, a founding member of South Asia Forum (SAF) and the predecessor of the current SAIEVAC, mentioned its longstanding commitment to protection of children. One recent initiative has been the raising of the age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 10 years.

Statements were also read out on behalf of their respective ministers by representatives Mr. Madhu Prasad Regmi, Secretary to Government of Nepal, Ms. Fozia Manzoor, political counsellor, Pakistan High Commission and Ms. Tehmina Begum, Bangladesh.

Governing Board Member, SAIEVAC and Joint Secretary, MWCD, Smt. Rashmi Saxena Sahni, extended a vote of thanks to all the delegates and guests for gracing this Ministerial Meeting and all those concerned with and responsible for the wellbeing of children. The potential to work together in the region arises from similar national experiences and shared understanding of needs among the countries of this region .She reiterated that ensuring the protection of children would require the highest level of commitment and concrete actions.

The recommendations made by the technical meeting were adopted and included inter alia technical cooperation for regional cross sharing and programming on ICT initiatives to trace missing children, on the lines of Trackchild and Khoya paya ; working towards establishing a uniform toll free helpline across the region; developing a regional strategy and common standards for addressing all forms of Sexual Abuse, Exploitation (including online) and Trafficking, which also builds on the existing situations in the different Member States and providing technical support through CHILDLINE India Foundation for strengthening helplines across the region.


 India fully committed to a strong partnership for protection of children within SAARC countries: Shri Rajnath Singh

SAIEVAC meeting historic; collective action to promote child rights and safety provides opportunity for change: Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

The three day landmark meeting of SAARC Countries on protection of children ended with the Ministerial Meeting in New Delhi today. The meeting of South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) was held to assess the progress made in collective effort to promote child rights and make the SAARC region safe for children.

Inaugurating the Ministerial meeting today, the Union Home Minister , Shri Rajnath Singh said that the SAARC region is home to the world’s largest population of children. Children are our most precious resource and it is most critical to safeguard the innocence and security of childhood, the Home Minister explained.

Highlighting the importance of SAIEVAC, Shri Rajnath Singh said that it is a coalition of States which aims at protection of the rights of children, particularly protection of children from all forms of discrimination, abuse, neglect, exploitation, torture, trafficking ie any kind of violence. The SAIEVAC meeting , he said, will provide the subsequent agenda in terms of strengthening the institutional and coordination mechanisms and to develop a regional strategy that defines clear milestones towards the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).

The Home Minister urged the member countries to take full advantage of SAIEVAC since the platform provides us with an opportunity for cross-country exchange and sharing of knowledge and resources related to child protection through capacity building, advocacy, and research. Shri Rajnath Singh expressed India’s full commitment towards a strong partnership for the protection of children.

Addressing the participants, the Union Minister of Women and Child Development , Smt Maneka Sanjay Gandhi said that the 4th Ministerial meeting is notable and in a way historic since it is the first where SAIEVAC takes stock of 5 years of work by national governments working in official partnership for the safety and security of children of the region. The WCD Minister hoped that the meeting will not only take the next step of assessing the challenges of our present time, and adopting decisions that will guide our next five years, but will also become an instrument of change.

Smt Maneka Gandhi highlighted the important new initiatives of the Indian Government as a part of affirmative action for protection of children like the Beti bachao beti Padhao Scheme, Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act, 2015, launch of Khoya-Paya; a Citizen based ICT platform to report missing and found children, extension of Childline to 402 locations across the country, Unique initiative with railways for runaway/trafficked children, inspection of Child Care Institutions, adoption reforms, introduction of Foster care among others.

Smt Maneka Gandhi also outlined the steps taken under the important ongoing schemes/initiatives and by institutions like POCSO, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, New National Policy for Children, Integrated Child Protection Scheme, Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan, efforts to check child labour, efforts to prevent child marriages among others.

The WCD Minister specially highlighted the new Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, launched under the guidance of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi which has now become one of the flagship programs of the Government. The program was launched to ensure survival, protection, education and empowerment of girl child and has become extremely successful, the Minister explained. She further added that it is an excellent example of how it is possible to achieve behavior change in a short period of time through concerted, collective and determined effort of various stakeholders.

Today’s Ministerial Meeting of SAIEVAC was preceded by a two-day technical session and was attended by Ministers of Child/Social Affair Departments of concerned countries, Secretaries of concerned departments, senior officials and Civil Society Organizations of various SAARC Countries. The meeting saw a discussion on ways and means to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, review of progress of ten years of SAIEVAC and five-year workplan (2011-16), formulation of draft recommendations by the 6th Governing Board Meeting and Adoption of Agenda for the next five years. The SAIEVAC meeting was hosted by WCD Ministry of Government of India.

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