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Our Lives, Our Rights yt

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Born in this dusty place was Durga. I've stepped on so many stages. To climb these stages, I have received so many punishments. I received not punishments, but awards. I sharpened my thoughts and discovered my leadership potential. I am president of the Vidiyal Child Rights Movement (VCRM), Durga. These are my friends. We join together and raise our voice to assert our rights. Living rights, development rights, protection rights and participation rights are the major classifications of child rights. Sometimes when mom and dad are not at home we will be home alone. Nobody will be there to protect us. People in poorer localities don’t get water in their areas. Even if they do get water, it’s a mix of drainage water and salt water. At home there is acute poverty. Families affected by poverty don't have money for even one square meal. We are not treated like children at home. They call us buffalos. They use filthy words to scold us daily. It’s very hard. Children are not allowed to study. My father asks me, “What’s the point of you studying?” But I have big goals and to achieve them I definitely have to study hard. When I’m studying, my father comes home drunk and causes trouble and I don’t like it. It's very difficult. I don’t know whom to talk about it; I just lament to myself. The next day I go to school in an upset mood. At school, I am distracted by these situations but my teachers probably label me 'idiot' and 'useless.' At schools, even if the Scheduled Caste students have talents, others dominate them. They say “You must remain at the bottom.” When there are opportunities, they say, “These opportunities are not for you.” In our living area (Melavasal) if boys are outside beyond 10:00 PM, the police take them away and falsely link them to existing cases. In Madurai, caste is an age old practice in which people are forced into caste tagged traditional occupations such as scavenging and cleaning toilets/sewers. Article 17 of the Constitution of India says, “Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden” but it still exists in different forms. In Madurai, Dalits get discriminated against. For example, others think all of our people eat leftovers from restaurants, look a certain way and wear certain clothes. Untouchability and discrimination based on caste exists everywhere— they think we're ugly. Like that it exists in different forms. If you look at other schools, students’ names are written alphabetically in attendance lists. But in my school they write the names on the basis of caste and that's why my name is written at the end of the attendance. I face this discrimination every day. Be it in the morning or in the afternoon, they call my name last. I used to feel very bad that my name is written at the end In the school I studied before, my name came at the beginning. But after I joined this school I noticed they write my name at the end of the attendance. Next to my name on the attendance, they had written SC (Scheduled Caste). When I thought about asking or telling someone, I got scared because I thought the school might punish me. In Convention on the rights of the Child (CRC) class at Vidiyal, I learned about protection from different forms of discrimination. Specifically, I learnt that caste discrimination in schools is a violation of child rights. On top of that, Vidiyal conducted a 5-day camp in Kodaikanal. They taught us how to challenge caste based discrimination and overcome the stigma attached to caste. I then understood that caste is socially constructed. I decided to through away the caste identity and put an end to the discrimination that I have been facing in my school. Won’t you say ‘present’? Are you deaf? Miss, schools should organize the attendance alphabetically but you have organized it by caste. Why have you written it like this? Look here, that’s how this school’s rules are. It was like this last year. It will be like this in the future too. If you want, you can go to another school. My friend’s teacher asked her for fees at her school Prema, have you paid your fees? No, Miss. Why not? There are no school fees in government schools. Come here. You’ll talk back to the teacher, huh? In 2009, a government order was issued saying students need not to pay school fees for government schools. Don’t cry. Tell your mom to pay the fees. Don’t cry. Bye. Go carefully. What dear, has school ended? Why are you going so silently? It’s nothing, Dad. Greetings! Madurai Childline. Then my friend called Childline. Childline members went to my friend’s school and warned them not to do this again. They said, "You should not ask for fees." Then they went to the Headmaster. Because they talked to the Headmaster, she apologized. The members also said, "This is your first and last warning. There should not be any violence on children." When I was sitting in class, my teacher told us about an upcoming science exhibition. He said, “Whoever wants to participate, give me your name.” He picked only the 4 students with the highest marks in science. I asked my teacher lots of times, “Please sir, I also want to participate. I have invented something at home— a motor to sprinkle water on agriculture land.” He immediately said no. I asked him repeatedly. He said, “Okay, bring in your invention." I brought it in the next day and showed him. He said, “Okay, this is good. Bring it tomorrow." Then the science exhibition happened. When we went to the school to participate, there were lots of students there to compete. I was a little scared but I remembered things from Vidiyal’s Science Forum. Thanks to that, even though there was a lot of competition, I was able to explain my project well to the facilitators. Mom, I’m going to school. Hey Suriya, you left your lunch box. Okay, I'm going now. Okay. Hey, Suriya! Good morning, Sir. Good morning, good morning. Sit down. Okay students, newcomers this year please stand up. What's your name? My name is Suriya, Sir. Suriya? What area are you from? I come from Melavasal, Sir. Melavasal? Where's that? Near Periyar Bus Stand. Periyar Bus Stand? Yes, yes. That slum area that's really dirty. . .that area? Yes, Sir. Yes, Sir. Okay sit down, sit down. Good afternoon, sir. Good afternoon. Everyone sit down. Hey, Periyar Bus Stand, get up. I told Murugesan Sir to buy me tea. Go get it. Why are you laughing at this? Okay, shall we— Go quickly, go! Shall we start the class? Hey, Periyar Bus Stand. Hey, Periyar Bus Stand. Hey, Periyar Bus Stand. Hey, Periyar Bus Stand. Hey, why are you going silently? Don’t you want money? Go, Ma. Hey, Periyar Bus Stand. Hey! What's up, Suriya? Why are you silent? Why are you silent? Immediately, I went to the staff room and said, “Sir, don’t call me that. It makes me very sad. My identity is Suriya Narayanan. That’s the name my mother and father gave me. We might have been born there (slum areas) but my identity is Suriya Narayanan. So call me by my name.” After that he changed; his actions changed. In Vidiyal’s Child Rights Education class we learnt that “According to our Right to Life, our name is our identity." We learnt to practice our rights. They taught us “Only when you claim your rights will you get your rights.” It was Vidiyal that gave us support and instilled courage in us. You want to achieve great things? Then let go of caste. You want to be human being? Then let go of religion. This was Ambedkar's motto. When I was in tenth grade, my teacher chose me to be the class leader. She chose me because I speak bravely about any and everything. I learned this by going to Vidiyal I was a member of the Vidiyal Child Rights Movement (VCRM). Once in every three months Vidiyal holds training workshops for children. When I was in the ninth grade, I attended the leadership training. In that training my leadership potential got molded and improved. I have had many leadership positions in VCRM from a young age until now through which I have facilitated many forums. Those experiences abled me to lead the students in my tenth grade class. Those experiences were useful for me. I’m proud to see all of you because on this day, we are going to celebrate the Child Rights Festival put on by the children and for the children. In this society, no one respects children but our movement has given us a special place where we are respected. I am happy about that because our team is leading the 16th Child Rights Festival; I am also proud about that. My aim is to become a math professor. If I become a math professor, I will be able to guide my students well and help them get good marks. After I become a professor, I will explain math in a way that is easy to understand to those around me. I also wish to teach them tricks to make it easy for them. Ma, give me money, Ma. Come on, Ma! Why are you irritating me so much? Here! Carefully ride the bicycle without falling down. Go! [Thought: Should I ask?] [No, no.] Ma, you give him money to play but you never give me money to buy notebooks? First you pass the twelfth standard, or else we will arrange your marriage soon. Then I cried a lot. I said to myself, “I need to pass the twelfth standard.” I felt that I must work hard and achieve my aim. I doubted whether I would go to college or not; I felt sad. She asked me this question because I was born a girl. If I was born a boy, would they have asked me this question? If I say “Don’t talk to him, don’t hang out with him,” you won’t listen? With who, ma? With him, with Karthik. Don’t hang out with him. Don’t talk to him. You never listen to me. Why should I not hang out with him? If I say don’t hang out with him, then don’t. If I say don’t talk to him, then don’t. Cut your friendship with him. Okay, Ma. I am the treasurer of the Vidiyal Child Rights Movement. I went to Gujarat for the 4th National Children’s Consultation (NCC). We went there for the National Children Collective. I was selected to go there because in Vidiyal if there is an opportunity to travel, the first preference goes to the VCRM president, secretary, and treasurer. They said in the sessions that if a movement is to be complete, it is important for it to have a name and structure. Past members in our movement already made a name and structure. It was a good opportunity to bring back information to our movement. I was very happy when came to know that I was going to be participating all the way in Gujarat. On the first day I didn’t understand any of their speech. But, Arockiam Brother and Jim Brother from Vidiyal continuously translated everything into Tamil. I learned how to develop our movement through team building. Additionally, Jim Brother told us a story: when a crowd of birds helps each other, we should be able to support one another in our movement. Nandees, Venkateshwari Sister, and I were selected to participate in Chennai to develop the State Child Policy. We learnt about how to facilitate classes and guide children to achieve the objective of the workshop. Since I ranked first in my Child Rights Education class, I was eligible to attend. I was happy about it. I taught other children about laws related to children and the history of child rights. The other children participated and expressed their thoughts well. I was very happy and proud. The changes we want to see are first, children should be allowed to live as children. They should be allowed to act their age because if you look at children’s problems, there are many violations of children’s right to protection. Sexual abuse, violence and also discrimination, caste discrimination. Let's bring change and end violations of child rights. This is not the end. Our journey continues in the path of child rights.

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Duration: 24 minutes and 32 seconds
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Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
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Views: 1
Posted by: dsing on Aug 9, 2016

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