Articles

CRY - AMERICA CHANGES NAME IN THE RIGHTS DIRECTION

INDIA ABROAD, MAY 25, 2007

SUMAN GUHA MOZUMDER
in New York

Since its founding in 2002, Child Relief and You America has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and grants as it worked to ameliorate the conditions of the millions of underprivileged children of India through grassroot-level voluntary projects.

Although success has been modest given the most daunting challenge, the nonprofit's philanthropic efforts have paid off. In just over four years, CRY has been able to better the lives of more than 80,000 poor, uneducated children, by working with nongovernmental organizations in India working on issues like child education, or eradication of bonded labor of children.

But now the organization is realizing that it calls for more than just philanthropy to cope with the scale, severity and persistence of the problems. And that permanent change is possible only when children, their parents and communities know about their rights and engage with their local government bodies to address the root causes of their problems.

In consonance with its new conviction, Child Relief and You-America last week re-christened itself as Child Rights and You-America.

'While the relief approach addresses the symptoms, the rights approach looks at why the problem exists and addresses its root causes,' Shefali Sunderlal, president, CRY America, said at a press conference in New York May

2. 'The relief approach treats children as objects of sympathy needing our help, while the rights approach reiterates that we are only giving children what they are entitled to as citizens,' she said.

The change of name underscores the belief that children's rights cannot be compromised,' Sunderlal said at the conference ahead of Pledge 2007, a benefit dinner for child rights the same evening in which CRY raised $80,000, including $26,000 from the auction of a painting donated by Ram Kumar and bought by Sundaram Tagore of Sundaram Tagore Art Galleiy of New York,

Despite India's rising growth story that has attracted worldwide attention, some of the statistics relating to children are shocking. According to the National Family Health Survey, 46 percent of children in India are underweight, 38 percent stunted and 19 percent wasted... their fate decided even before they turn three. Less than half of India's children between the age of 6 and 14 do not go to school and only 38 percent of India's children below the age of 2 years are immunized and one in 10 children dies before his/her fifth birthday.

'We believe that each one of us can make a difference and that together, we will create a movement that irrevocably changes children's lives,' Sunderlal said.

CRY, which believes that child rights can become central to India's public policy and enter public discourse only when people choose to make it a priority by demanding government accountability to translate the rights into action, has made a ten-point demand.

It demanded that the government should ensure that all children complete schooling, increase expenditure on education to 10 percent of the gross domestic product and prohibit all forms of child labor, including in agriculture.

Ingrid Srinath, CEO of CRY India and honorary director of CRY America, noted that millions of children across India are excluded from the rights most American children take for granted education, healthcare, protection from exploitation and abuse.

'Charity alone is woefully inadequate to the task of ensuring sustainable change on any significant scale/ she said. 'Unless we address the root causes of this situation -endemic poverty, gender bias, class and caste divides and misgovernance we will only be scratching the surface of the problem.

'CRTs experience in thousands of rural, tribal and slum communities over 28 years has proven that the rights approach is the only one that makes a sustainable difference,' she continued.

"In the relief mode you are only asking people for financial support. In the rights-based mode, you are asking certainly for that financial support but also for their active citizenship," Srinath told India Abroad last year after CRY India changed its name.

Those present at the press conference included UN goodwill ambassador Meera Gandhi who hosted the charity dinner and Nandan Maluste, board chair and honorary trustee, CRY India. Farced Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, delivered the keynote at the dinner.