Three day meeting of SAIEVAC concluded on Wednesday, wherein several ministers and delegates from SAARC nations agreed to cooperate on ICT initiatives to trace missing children on the lines of Track Child and Khoya Paya missing child tracking websites. India offered support for expanding and upgrading child helpline services in SAARC nations to check trafficking and violence against children. Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh were also present in the meet.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was founded in the year 1985 with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as its members. Afghanistan later joined the association as eighth member in 2007. One of the six apex bodes of SAARC – SAIEVAC (South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children) was formed in 2006 after the global appeal by the United Nations to end violence against children.
The key pick of the meeting was agreement on working towards setting up a toll-free children’s helpline across SAARC region so that the issues could be addressed easily and effectively. Member nations also agreed for developing a regional strategy and common standards in respective nations to effectively address all forms of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.
WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi emphasized on the problems that SAARC nations are facing, such as child trafficking and said mutual learning and initiative would result in saving thousands of lives. “We all suffer from child trafficking and therefore, we have the same problems from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. So we will now have time-bound goals for the first time,” she said.
India already has a unique helpline number (1098) dedicated to address child rights, safety and security of children. Gandhi said, elaborating about the response of Children’s helpline number, with the help of initiatives like Childline and Track Child (web portal for reporting and searching missing children) we can track all the information in real-time. She also urged member nations to adopt the 1098 helpline number as a common number for SAARC nations and announced that India would send team to the SAARC nations to set up a similar system for them. “The problems we face are common, but at the same time we are also dependent on each other to solve them. The regional cross sharing of initiatives will help save the lives of thousands of children.” she added.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh was invited as the chief guest in the closing ceremony of the meet. He said sex tourism and child pornography are emerging as the major threats to children and all the nations should try to ensure a protective environment for children. Explaining the actions of Indian government, he said, “The government is trying to ensure a protective environment for children by bringing all citizens under the purview of social security by linking them with Aadhaar – so that we have access to their entitlements directly without any hindrance.”
“We have set up a national portal which not only has data on ‘missing’ children but it also has live database to monitor the progress of the ‘found’ children who are availing various services in different child care Institutions,” he added.
Concluding his address, Rajnath Singh said if all the SAARC nations share information, expertise, experience and good practices, these major threats can be effectively reduced.