Protection of environment has posed not only a major challenge but also a social and moral responsibility in the present society. Children like any other children of the world who live in villages and backward areas in and around Madurai, Tamilnadu, India need a decent, secure, affordable home which is fundamental to the realization of children’s rights. The quality of housing affects girls’ and boys’ health and overall environment. Their health and survival depends as much on healthy environments as on health services. In fact, these children are particularly affected by health related problems which are related to water and sanitation and they are susceptible to diarrhoeal diseases, intestinal worms and various eye and skin ailments. Inadequate living environments namely environmental chaos, stress and parenting, poor housing, absence of safe informal public gathering places, lack of easy access to opportunities for safe play, absence of constructive opportunities for young people, repeated exposure to violence in hazardous in rural and semi- urban environment etc impact the quality of life of children.
It is found that children who live in rural and backward areas have heightened vulnerability to a variety of exposures as a consequence of their developmental, behavioural and physiological characteristics. They receive greater exposures per unit of body weight than adults because – for their size – they eat more food, drink more liquids, and breathe more air than adults. Depending on their age, children’s ability to metabolize, detoxify and excrete many toxicants is different from that of adults. Exposures at critical periods of development can result in irreversible damage to the growing nervous system, affect emerging behaviour patterns, cause immune dysfunction and have serious reproductive effects.Children’s behaviour often places them at higher risk than adults to certain environmental hazards, because of their exploratory behaviour, frequent hand-to-mouth activity, and proximity to the ground – all of which result in greater contact with sources of contamination.
Knowing the importance of information dissemination in promoting the environmental health rights among children and providing opportunity for them to effectively participate in practice – based learning experiences, the Goodwill social work centre proposes to launch a CHILDREN’S ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH RIGHTS’ centre to cater to the needs of children and young people in and around Madurai, Tamilnadu, South India and backward areas in and around Madurai, Tamilnadu, South India. The proposed project will provide education and training on children’s rights and environment, research on issues concerning environmental health rights, takes up advocacy, undertakes capacity building, work in partnership with local and international organizations, work with media and press and act a resources centre for children, youth, teachers and parents”. It aims to build harmonious relationship between the environment and children and young people. Our work will Centre on promoting greater access to justice and guarantee human rights for children who are victims of environmental degradation.
Children will be sensitized to environmental issues and provided with an opportunity to participate in media intervention campaigns, participatory training and field exposure programmes. They will empowered with information of the environment and will be ‘environmentally concerned’ about the health rights and the need to protect and promote their rights. They will be empowered to identify potential environmental risks and solutions. They will have greater opportunities to have access to Internet based ecology and environment information. Pre-assessment and post assessment surveys to measure the level of knowledge and attitudes among the children will assess the success of the project. Qualitative assessment of the participation of children in various participatory training programmes and activities will also serve an indicator for defining success of the project. Assistance to children and their parents who are victims of environmental degradation. Parents, teachers and local community based civil society organizations in the project areas will be empowered through Education, training and awareness building in human rights for children and environmental health rights.