Pomi's crusade for change

 

16-year-old Pomi, is one of the most active members of the children’s clubs in Bardhaman Area Development Programme, West Bengal.  She is the President of the Birds children’s club in her community as well as the federation club consisting of other children’s clubs in Bardhaman. Pomi has gained quite a name for herself and the group in the community by mastering the art of effective community mobilisation to fight social evils that have been present in their community since a long time.

 

From stopping child marriages, to campaigning against anti-social activities such as the selling and consuming drugs and alcohol in the community, to clean-up drives and also enrolling children in school, these children’s clubs are doing it all.  On 20th November 2018, Pomi received the prestigious Birangana, which is a bravery award given by the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (Government of West Bengal) to acknowledge her special efforts in the community.

 

Pomi tells us more about the work of the children’s clubs. “We had a lot of problems in our community because of drug abuse, child marriage and child labour. Children would be married off by the age of 14 itself, but now this has stopped because of the presence of our clubs. Through children’s clubs we are tackling things that the grown-ups could not do. We work along with the community and children to rid these evils. We have stopped two cases of child marriage so far and many have heard about us and stopped on their own. Since we started work here, we have enrolled around 15 children in school and have also done a two-week long anti-drugs campaign. But one of our main focus is to stop child marriages. People are now aware of the consequences and hardly few would dare marry their children off,” says Pomi proudly. 

 

In recognition of their efforts, on 21st February 2018, the six children’s clubs were felicitated with certificates of appreciation as well as a cheque for INR 10,000 by Kunal Agarwal, Superintendent of police, Bardhaman and the Bardhawan Municipality. They plan on using the money to develop a library for children in the community. 

 

The first club ‘Happy’ was formed in 2015 and had a small group of children. Later this group was divided to form six groups and currently there are eight groups in the community that have a membership of almost 300 children.

 

In April 2018, the groups decided to come together to form a federation club which has 19 representatives from each of the children’s clubs in their community. The federation club members meet every month and was created so that there is better communication and coordination between all the children’s clubs. 
Salim Khan who is the Ward Councillor and the President of the Child Protection Committee, considers these groups as a blessing in the community. “These children’s groups are my eyes and hands in the community. They keep me updated about what is happening in the community and help me address issues as well. We have been able to tackle some difficult problems because of these kids,” he says.  

 

Pomi who is currently studying in the 12th grade and is a keen advocator for girl’s education was thrilled to receive the Birangana award. This award has given her an increased boost to do much more for her community. She now wants to pursue a degree in social work along with a technical course in designing.  
With a common vision for each child and a plan to make that vision possible, Pomi and her group are an inspiration for others in their community. “We want poor families in our community to be helped. We don’t want a single child to drop-out of school, to be employed as a child labourer or to get married before the right age. Our vision is that every child in our community is aware of their rights and becomes a member of the children’s club so that they have the opportunity to learn and grow,” says Pomi. 

 

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