Concerned For Working Children

Advocacy Helps You Scale | Kavita Ratna

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


A lot of people feel that you need to have a critical size before you actually go in and start advocating .You shouldn’t wait for many many years before advocacy happens, because advocacy actually helps it to go to scale.”

It is an honour for an Indian organization working in a hitherto niche space – children’s rights and their participation – to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kavita Ratna from the Concerned for Working Children speaks to The Practice’s Shivraj Parshad in this podcast interview and places the nomination in perspective. Kavita believes this is global recognition for their tireless advocacy across many levels for children to be counted in the decision making process that most affect their lives.

Co-create for Sustainability

Khemka Forum Podcast Series: Transcript of the podcast with Kavita Ratna

Interviewer: Shivraj Parshad, The PRactice



Shivraj: Kavita Ratna, thank very you so much for speaking to the Khemka Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

Kavita Ratna: Thank you very much and I am glad to be here.

Shivraj: Kavita, CWC – Concerned for Working Children has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, that’s a pretty big nomination, your first reactions.

Kavita Ratna: Quite amazing, it’s been quite amazing and very overwhelming because this is pretty much at a very different league for us.

Shivraj: CWC has been around for three decades, what does this nomination and global recognition really mean for you.

Kavita Ratna: It means actually a lot to us, especially in relation to what we have been nominated for. Those who have nominated us, have specifically named the fact that our contribution to the issue of children’s right to participation is what got their attention and it’s why they actually nominated us. And for us it comes actually as I said a very big surprise and also an honour and again somewhat humbling. But the fact that the children having their right to participation, it essentially means that children have the right to self determination in whatever affects their lives. This we feel is really recognition of that right.

Shivraj: And this brings me to my next question, from a very lay person’s perspective what does children’s rights and their participation really mean?

Kavita Ratna: So when we look at children and children as individual entities and we apply the concept of larger human rights to children, we understand children have a lot of rights which they hold as citizens, as human beings, but also very uniquely as children. The human rights convention itself says that the rights, what really distinguishes between rights and welfare, is the fact that the concerned party is part of the decision which is taken about him or her. Now this very rarely is applied to children. Either because people feel that children do not have the capacity for it, or they feel there is really no need for it, because we know best or because they feel we are laying the path for children and they will pretty much follow. So basically it would mean Shivraj that if you are providing for children or protecting children, to actually find out from children how they would like to be protected and what they would like to be protected from. What is it that they need to be provided for, what should be the quality of that provision? How should that be monitored, what would they have to say, it is actually really very simple and it would be common sense.

Shivraj: And you know Kavita it is a very interesting approach because for the last three decades what one has read about CWC, you have been doing a lot of on ground research and work as well with children, but it is also about advocacy. So for social entrepreneurs listening to this podcast what are the real tools of advocacy and the value of advocacy that you have learnt over the last 30 years that has brought you to this stage?

Kavita Ratna: The idea is that a lot of people feel that you need to have a critical size before you actually go in and start advocating .You shouldn’t wait for many many years before advocacy happens, because advocacy actually helps it to go to scale. I think the main thrust of our work has always been that at grass roots we work with children and have always been with children. Not for or addressed to, but with children and whatever we have learnt from that experience we have constantly and very consciously taken to all possible forums of advocacy, state level, local government, national, international and constantly arguing the case for two things. One, that they should actually listen to children directly, that we are not the self appointed advocates, they should listen to children directly. Second is whatever we have heard from them and learnt from them, you’ve got to make a strong case for them, help the policy makers understand the nuances. Because when it comes to listening to the children it’s not just about listening verbally, literally to what they are saying but also to understand the sense, why we are saying what we are saying, to be able to read between the lines. And sometimes policymakers need help with that. I think helping the affected groups really speak up for themselves are both in terms of the principles and practice extremely powerful, because you are helping the group which is the concerned body a) to say what they want to say and b) to say with backing, with argument, not just emotive but also backing it with data, backing it with analysis.

Shivraj: And finally what are your next steps, what are you looking ahead to?

Kavita Ratna: Actually we are looking ahead now to October, when the announcements come out, we now see this as a window of opportunity for us because now there is some attention on the issue and there is so little about child participation or children’s participation by way of information, knowledge, thinking that we are now trying to generate some sort of discussion forum such as this one, where we are actually highlighting the issue of participation. And another thing Shivraj is that we acknowledge that we are one in many organisations working on children’s participation and we feel that there is also an opportunity for all of us to link up together, many of us have worked together before, that come together even more strongly and have a very strong presence in terms of the importance of the children’s right to self determination.

Shivraj: All right Kavita thank you very much for speaking to the Khemka Forum on Social Entrepreneurship

Kavita Ratna: Thank you very much and I would love to hear if there is any feedback to what was discussed here today.


Views expressed here are solely that of the person interviewed and may not represent the views of The Nand & Jeet Khemka Foundation.