JAIPUR — Under the leadership of Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, the National Maha Bal Panchayat May 8 held elections for 11 members who will "stand responsible as the legitimate and direct voice" of children from their respective states and commit themselves to eradicating all forms of child exploitation.

The election was held at the Bal Ashram, a rehabilitation and educational support center for children who are rescued from various states.

A total of 66 Bal Panchayat members from six states – Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh – submitted their names for nomination and, via elections, formed the 2018 Maha Bal Panchayat. 

Lalita Kumari from Rajasthan was elected as Bal Sarpanch, Champa was elected vice president and Surjeet was elected secretary. 

The Maha Bal Panchayat’s key areas of intervention include the provision of basic infrastructure in schools, the appointment of schoolteachers and assurance of regular attendance, the prevention of early child marriage and the facilitation of links to several social welfare schemes.

Newly-elected Bal Sarpanch Lalita said: "I have a huge responsibility on my shoulders... I will try my best to solve the problems of children. First of all, I will try and rescue children from child labor and then send them to school."

The election was held under the Bal Mitra Gram program, which has been setting benchmarks in promoting child-centric community development since 2001, when it was launched by Satyarthi’s Bachpan Bachao Andolan as a social transformation initiative cum model.

The concept of a national-level Bal Panchayat was introduced in 2008 as a means to amplify children’s voices, develop their leadership skills and increase the impact of BMGs. Since then, over three have been elected and constituted. 

Satyarthi termed the BMG "the first step towards my aim of making a child-friendly world" where parents, teachers, communities and leaders listen to and respect the voice of children and involve them in decision making. 

The elected Assembly of Children will also put forth their achievements, concerns and a charter of rights at the National Consultation to be held in New Delhi May 11, organized by Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation and Global March Against Child Labor.

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