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17-year-old Aishwarya from New Delhi, India, at a session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, Switzerland. At home in New Delhi, Aishwarya became involved in advocacy for human rights through the work of Misean Cara member Edmund Rice Development. Aishwarya proved an enthusiastic participant, leading to her selection for the visit to Geneva, where she co-moderated one of the session debates on defending children’s rights in online spaces. Photo: Edmund Rice Development.

In India, the concept of Children’s Parliaments was introduced in Tamil Nadu in the late 1990s. It is used to encourage young people to get involved in understanding the surroundings and society in which they live, to identify and address issues of rights and responsibilities, and to call duty bearers to account. Edmund Rice Development (ERD), uses this methodology in working with children from marginalised groups in the capital, New Delhi, through an organisation called PRATYEK. In Hindi, “Pratyek” means “Everyone”. In the Hindi translation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, each Right starts with “Pratyek”.

The power and potential of these Parliaments is clear from the journey of Aishwarya. Coming from a troubled background, Aishwarya had dropped out of school and was struggling with her life in the slums of Palika Dham, New Delhi, when she joined the ERD Children’s Parliament project. Her life was transformed: she became part of the Young Advocates for Social Harmony group and completed her schooling.

Through ERD’s connection with Edmund Rice International (ERI), which links local, national and international advocacy, Aishwarya went on to contribute to discussions on Children as Defenders of Child Rights at the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in Geneva. She will be a Child Ambassador representing India at the 30th anniversary commemorative conference of the CRC in November 2019.

ERI works to build the capacity of communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania to undertake advocacy and engage with national and international human rights processes. It undertakes training in Geneva, and enables communities from 18 countries to interact with human rights treaty bodies in Geneva and New York – especially on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN’s Universal Periodic Review of the record of member states on human rights.