Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF visited Mumbai last month. She was keen to understand the issues and challenges faced by children, adolescents, and young people who lived in urban poor settlements of Mumbai.

During her visit Fore accompanied by Jean Gough, Regional Director, and Rajeshwari Chandrasekar, Chief of Field Office UNICEF Maharastra interacted with the children, adolescents, and young people to understand the challenges they face, perception on safety, violence, as well as their aspirations and dreams.

Children from CCDT’s Building Safe Communities Program performed a mime act that showcased the transformation of unsafe spaces into safe spaces over the past years. The mime act highlighted the efforts of the children, and the members of the Community Child Protection Committee as well as the processes in transforming the spaces.

Followed by the mime act, a panel discussion was conducted with adolescents from CCDT, YUVA and Pratham on Aspirations with Opportunities. During the panel discussion with Fore, the youth representative from CCDT Pooja Pasi shared, “Over the years, it’s not only the unsafe spots that we have transformed but also the mindset of the community people to make safer and more child-friendly community.” Pasi further explained, “Along with my friends I took on the onus of transforming unsafe spaces in the community into safe ones which could be accessed by all. Earlier when we visited the police stations or government offices, people would not really listen to us, we had to keep going and reminding them; now everyone knows us. The officials say, “The children from Shivaji Nagar have come, we have to listen and help solve their problems.”  We have made the spaces safe, we have also made people change their thinking and behaviour.”

By speaking on issues such as access to services (health, education, sanitation and hygiene), perceptions on safety, and violence faced (at home, in schools, in communities where the children reside and in public spaces), the adolescents helped Fore develop a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by children and adolescents who live in urban poor settlements, along with their dreams.