Childrens Groups and the Battle of Ballot Box
Most parts of India are not unfamiliar to the use of unfair means for canvassing during elections. Ugly war of words between representatives from opposite parties are also not new either. It does not matter at what level the elections are being fought, these practices and behaviours are pervasive. Children who witness this from close quarters can often equate elections with winning and wielding power. Leher’s work on child protection with communities in Madhubani, also involves facilitating the organization of adolescent children’s groups of girls and boys. Having just completed a year of processes towards group formation, the groups recently conducted elections to elect a President and Secretary for each group. We learned from our team, that the process of election was planned meticulously by the children only requiring a little help at the time of execution. It was fiercely competitive to the extent that in a few groups, there was a tie and ballots had to be cast again. There were heated arguments between the former and newly elected representatives. Our team was taken aback with how the word ‘chunaav’ changed the dynamics and energy of the groups. Maybe it is inherent to the terrain—Bihar. Elections in these informal groups of children, made them political, and they associated politics and elections with power and ‘varchasav’. Children must be political. However, they absorb from the political climate around them, and it shapes their perceptions and expectations of adult life, and leadership. Children organizing themselves into groups presents a unique opportunity for them to learn and practice democracy, leadership, responsibility and collective action. It is important for children to learn about the significance of elections in a democracy, role of an elected leader and that there is a lot more to democracy than winning or losing an election. We have an opportunity to begin these conversations with children. May be someday someone from among these groups will grow up to become ‘the leader’ we have been waiting for.
Photo Credits : Sarvo Prayas Sanstha
Words By : Leher