Ensuring child rights in the new constitution of Nepal

World Vision International Nepal (WVIN) has been working for the past several years with various national networks and like-minded organisations to ensure the promotion of children's rights in Nepal’s new context.

In 2006, the internal armed conflict came to an end with a comprehensive peace agreement between the then insurgents, the Maoists, and the government. This led to the successful parliamentary Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in 2008 and the declaration of Nepal as a secular democratic republic, abolishing the age-old monarchy. In the light of these changes, WVIN partnered with like-minded organisations and adopted a common position to give a voice to children and include their participation in the drafting of the new constitution of Nepal.

Two national child rights’ coalitions, Children as Zones of Peace (CZOP), and the Consortium of Organizations Working for Child Participation, have called for the inclusion in the new constitution of comprehensive child rights, and associated structures to protect child rights. As a steering committee member of those two organisations, WVIN has been working to position itself as a child-focused organisation advocating for the rights of children, who comprise nearly half the population of Nepal but are regarded as second-class citizens.

Starting from 2006, the same network also organised a far-reaching series of national and district consultations with children aimed at capturing the voices of children in the interim constitution, the election process, and the forthcoming new constitution.

The network also worked to involve children and stakeholders, carry out research and prepare publications, create a CA advocacy group for mass lobbying, build capacity of CA members on child rights and mobilise the media.

In 2007, children made recommendations to the government on policy concerning their rights. Children from 63 districts were consulted at local and district levels. This was followed by a national consultation, held in the capital, of 63 child representatives selected from child clubs across 48 districts. The outcome was a 12-point agenda to be addressed by the State and put forth by the children, concerning their health, education, development, protection and participation.

From 2008-2009, a national campaign was held which managed to collect the thumbprints of one million children from across the country to pressurise the government to prioritise the rights of children when drafting the new constitution. This was a joint campaign initiated with the coordination and participation of 728 child rights’ organisations all over the country.

Headed by children in each district, local organisations in 67 districts across Nepal took part in the campaign. The campaign was run from a bus, called the Child Rights Bus, specially painted for the purpose that travelled from one district to another. During the campaign, awareness on the situation of children and the importance of child rights was generated through rallies and street plays.

With the help of a national children’s essay competition, “The Constitution I desire”, children’s suggestions were also collected. The campaign ended on National Children’s Day with the exhibition and handing over of the thumbprints, to the Chairperson of the CA, Mr Subhas Nemwang, in a function organised by the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare.

In 2009, a Child Rights Parliamentary Forum was formed to ensure children are given highest priority and their rights are safeguarded in the constitution-drafting process. The Child Rights Parliamentary Forum is a national forum to listen to children and advocate on their behalf. As such, selected CA members have committed themselves to being ‘Child Rights Advocates’ and to working with others to maximise their influence.  In the long-term this forum will also be a place to review government legislation, monitor policy, and initiate bills on behalf of children.

In 2010, an interaction for child rights coalition with Chairperson of Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Committee, Ms. Yanghee Lee, and Vice-Chairperson, Mr. Jean Zermatten, was organised to share experiences and the achievements made by the networks, learn more about global child rights constitutional provisions, and update the CRC Committee on the optional protocol shadow-reporting of Nepal.

After much anticipation, the Fundamental Rights Committee has already incorporated most of the recommendations as an Expert Submission into the Draft Concept Note of the new constitution. One of the key recommendations is to enshrine the rights to participation for all children. The children of Nepal now look forward to a brighter future with the new constitution due to be promulgated in May 2011. Against this background WVIN continues to advocate for the inclusion of children's rights in the new constitution.