1. Steering Committee Programme on Child Rights
This programme can be identified as a very important step taken to ensure the rights of the children of this country after Sri Lanka became a signatory to the Universal Child Rights Convention. These Steering Committees were set up by the Circular No. MSS/3/4/161 issued by the Ministry of Social Services in 2000 and they have been re drafted by the Circular No. PCC/CROP/11/34 issued by this Department. These committees were established to cover all Divisional Secretariat Divisions in the island, extending from national level to rural level.
In this programme implemented with the objective to creating an environment that is favourable for children to live in, the second result expected involved the model villages for ensuring child rights through the strengthening of steering committees as well as gradual improvement of children’s clubs programme implemented to improve children’s participation.
2. Project to set up Children’s Clubs and Children’s Councils
Children’s Clubs were established at Grama Niladhari Division level in year 2007 with the key objective of empowering the children while ensuring their right to participation stated in Article 12, 13 and 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Through these children’s clubs, a large number of programmes in relation to promoting child participation, inculcating ethics and developing skills of the children have been implemented in all Divisional Secretariats.
Divisional Children’s Councils have been established by bringing together the Children’s Clubs in Divisional Secretariat level and District Children’s Councils have been setup by aggregating the office bearers of Divisional Children’s Councils. By now, a Divisional Children’s Council has been established in every Divisional Secretariat and a District Children’s Council in every district. A National Children’s Council has also been set up by the collection of office bearers of District Children’s Councils. Programmes to develop skills of the children of children’s clubs, contributing books to children’s clubs and inculcating ethics of children have been done through children’s clubs.
Divisional Children’s Council
Divisional Children’s Council is the structure which is formed with the Secretary, President, Treasurer and few selected members of the Children’s Clubs established at Grama Niladhari Divisions and registered under the Department of Probation and Child Care Services.
It is more accurate to define the Divisional Children’s Council as the result of the effort made to bring the children’s right to participation from village level to Divisional Secretariat Division level. Office bearers of children’s clubs are given the membership as members of the Divisional Children’s Council and the number of members to be participated will be decided on the number of Grama Niladhari Divisions in that Divisional Secretariat.
The department has introduced a definite constitution for Divisional Children’s Councils and they have been set up in accordance to that. The term of the Divisional Children’s Council is two years. Child Rights Promotion Officers, under the guidance and advice of the Divisional Secretary/Asst. Divisional Secretary, implements the Divisional Children’s Council.
Providing opportunities for collective decision making and planning, leadership and personality development and developing the hidden talents of children are the objectives of establishing Divisional Children’s Councils.
Through the Divisional Children’s Council, the Department of Probation and Child Care expects to ensure the right to participation of the children in the relevant Divisional Secretariat Division and to empower them to become shareholders at various occasions.
Furthermore, delivering suitable representatives to the District Children’s Council is a responsibility assigned to the Divisional Children’s Council. By now, Divisional Children’s Councils have been set up in every Divisional Secretariat Division of the country and are being operated actively.
National Children’s Council
National Children’s Council is the apex organizational structure of the project implemented by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services to ensure the children’s right to participation. The National Children’s Council was first established in year 2009 with the membership of the President, Secretary, Treasurer and two selected members from each District Children’s Council.
Seven members of each District Children’s Council get the opportunity to become members of the National Children’s Council. Accordingly, the National Children’s Council, was established with 104 members in 2009 and as a result of the steps taken by the Department of Probation and Child Care Services to increase the participation, the National Children’s Council was re-structured to 175 members in 2014.
It is more appropriate to define the National Children’s Council as the children’s organization structure that operates under the advice of the Commissioner of the Department of Probation and Child Care Services. The office bearers are elected for a period of two years and expansion of the participation right of the children up to 21 years, identifying opportunities and making necessary interventions in this regard are the compulsory responsibilities entrusted to the National children’s Council.
The Department of Probation and Child Care Services expects the National Children’s Council to act as a mediator in planning and implementing various programmes for children and to develop skills, attitudes and knowledge of the children to make them a complete citizen with a balanced personality.
District Children’s Council
District Children’s Council is the children’s organization structure of the Department of Probation and Child Care Services that operates at district level. District Children’s Councils are established with the key office bearers such as the president, secretary and the treasurer of the Divisional Children’s Councils in that particular district. District Children’s Councils have been established as one per each district and is operated by the District Child Rights Promotion Officer under the guidance and advice of the District Secretary.
All the Child Rights Promotion Officers in the district provide necessary guidance for this and the District Child Rights Promotion Officer does all the coordination. Further empowering of children to achieve the goal of the Children’s Clubs and Divisional Children’s Council, the ensuring of the children’s right to participation, is done by the District Children’s Council. For this purpose, the District Children’s Council acts on areas such as ensuring children’s rights, collective decision making, leadership and personality development and developing knowledge, attitudes and skills of children. In order to ensure the children’s right to participation, the District Children’s Council is taking steps to represent children at the District Child Development Committees and District Development Committees.
The specialty of the District Children’s Councils is the way it functions, ie. without any discriminations based on sex, religion, race and cast and also the way they conduct meetings, ie. meets in peace, discuss and take decisions in peace and depart in peace, in such a manner that sets an example to other organizations and associations in the district.
The District Children’s Council acts to protect the right to participation of children in the entire district and does the interventions on behalf of the children. The District Secretariat is the representing agency in this regard.
3. Model Children’s Village Programme
In order to ensure the community based child care process, provisions have been allocated under this programme to implement programmes to safeguard the rights of the children in a selected village from each Divisional Secretariat Division. Under this, programmes have to be implemented within that village to safeguard every child’s right to development, survival, protection and participation with the involvement of various public officers.
For this purpose, project proposals that could be implemented at Divisional Secretariat Division level were obtained and provisions are allocated to implement them.
4. Child Friendly Centers
These centers provide protection to isolated vulnerable children to spend their leisure time safely. Safety as well as the facilities to improve knowledge and skills are provided for the children when both parents are away from home. Children also get the chance to use the library and play indoor games and outdoor games here.
5. Awareness Programmes
A child is a person below the age of 18 years. Securing the rights of the children and protecting them from violence prevailing against them are the main responsibilities of our department. It is necessary to empower the children by discharging these duties to endow them a healthier tomorrow.
Based on these objectives, awareness programmes are organized and implemented at Divisional Secretariat Division level on various topics to raise awareness of the children to minimize the incidences currently taking place. Different social groups are targeted here.
Awareness programmes are conducted every year on various topics based on the social need to ensure the rights of the children and to ensure their security.
6. Preparation of Care Plans
Preparation of Care Plans is the programme implemented to ensure the long term safety of vulnerable children. The need for such a method emerged as a result of identifying a large number of vulnerable children in 2011, through the island wide survey conducted to identify vulnerable children.
The nature of the vulnerability of identified children was diverse. According to the situation, care plans are prepared to eliminate such vulnerability and to ensure their safety. It has to be implemented on short as well as long term basis over several years and follow up is done by the Child Rights Promotion Officers and Child Rights Promotion Assistants.
Support of other field officers is also obtained at all levels from preparation to implementation of care plans and in their evaluation. The importance of acting on a joint approach rather than an individual one in ensuring child safety has been emphasized through this.
Preparation of care plans helps to uplift the family condition while the child receives protection and development.
7. Child Centric Disaster Risk Reduction Programme
Sri Lanka has been identified as a disaster prone country and during the recent past it had to face many a natural disasters. Being a small island in the Indian Ocean, the South East and North West monsoon rains have become the determining factor of its climate and weather. Floods, flash floods and landslides owing to heavy rains and droughts, hurricanes and other disasters could be observed throughout the year. Thus the disasters that had taken place with and without the involvement of people have risen up. However, data shows that it is the children that are mostly at risk at times of such disasters.
According to United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, rights of the children should be secured at all times and the government is bound for it. As a government entity intended for the implementation of this Convention and ensuring the rights of children, the Department of Probation and Child Care Services introduced this Child Centric Disaster Risk Reduction Programme as a strategy of securing the rights of children during disaster situations.
The specialty of this programme is that it is the children who identify the disaster situations that they and the community face and are also the ones who make interventions to strengthen the disaster preparedness. For this, children get the opportunity to identify village level projects and to implement them. Implementation of the Child Centric Disaster Risk Reduction Programme is done through the children engaged in Children’s Club and Children’s Council programme of this department.
8. Child-led Research
Children are inquisitive. Most often, they are logical and are of analytical power. It is the children who really feel the true nature of both securing and violation of child rights. Therefore they are the once who can find out the issues that exist for them and the solutions for those issues. The Child- led research programme provide them the opportunity for this. The aim of this programme implemented through the District Children’s Council programme of the Department of Probation and Child Care Services is to allow the children themselves to study a negative situation existing for children in their district, suggest solutions for it and to strengthen the interventions for the implementation of those solutions. Identifying evidence based approaches and improvement of knowledge are other positive gains children get from this. Even though research is not widely used among children, the enthusiasm, and the interest they have shown to contribute for the welfare of their peers through this programme is a clear indication of children’s passion towards this programme.