ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Perspective on Child Well-Being

From Surviving to Thriving

The process of living as a child has changed in post-Independence India as have the challenges faced by children. Exploring alternative facets and formulations of children's rights though has yet to find space in policy discourse. Use of the term well-being expands the scope of research inquiry and policy attention, from the negatives to the positives, building on the strengths of the parents, the family, the societies and the state, to ensure children are able to not just survive but actually thrive.

Much has been written in recent years about children and their rights to survival, development, protection and participation.1 Public discourse on children’s rights resembles a see-saw, it remains balanced on two ideals: inclusion (ensuring children’s rights are viewed as universal human rights) and recognition (accepting that children are not mini-adults, they are individuals in their own right, only given life experiences need additional protection from all duty-bearers). Allowing for near unanimity in vision and approach, there is thus a remarkable uniformity to the dialogue on child rights. Unanimity has the benefit of allowing for policies to be framed with few conceptual challenges; programmes can then move swiftly from drawing boards to budget line-items, thus underlining the urgency of the need to provide for children. And yet despite all the policy attention, material and human support, there is also unanimous realisation that the experienced reality of childhood provides evidence that children are not and will continue to not do well.

The childhood experiences of children are now less predictable, and the changes in evidence have enormous social2 and political significance, which have yet to influence institutions and policies designed to improve the childhood experience of children. Dramatic shifts have occurred in the conventional markers of childhood – joining school, finishing school, playing, making friends, developing interests, falling ill, getting medical attention – and in how these experiences are configured as a set. These accounts reveal how the process of living as a child has changed in post-Independence India, the challenges faced by children today, and what parents, families, societies and the state, and not necessarily in that order can do to improve the experience of childhood, for children.

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