About CRY America

Imagine a country. Call it India, if you will. Yesterday, 10,000 Indians died from entirely preventable causes. As many died the day before. And the previous day. And so on as long as anyone can remember. What do you think might happen in this imaginary land? Would the situation be declared a national calamity? Would high-powered committees work late into the night thinking up strategies to deal with the crisis? Would the media be covering any other news?

Yet 10,000 children die every single day in India. More than in any tsunami, flood, earthquake, famine or war. Reports released reveal that:

  • 46% of children in India are underweight, 38% stunted and 19% wasted... their fate decided even before they turn three [National Family Health Survey, 2007]
  • 53% children in India reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse [Ministry of Women and Child Development, 2007]
  • There are 17 million child laborers in India [Government of India Census, 2001]
  • 180 out of 581 districts in India have seen primary school enrolments fall [DISE, compiled by NUEPA]
  • 88,000 schools (nearly 8%) in India still do not have a blackboard in their classes [2007 Survey by HRD Ministry, UNICEF and NEUPA]

These statistics are shocking. The reality of India almost 60 years after independence is that millions of children have their very survival threatened on a daily basis- malnutrition, illiteracy, child labor, preventable diseases, abuse and exploitation. We all know that children do not live in isolation- they belong to families, communities and society at large. They are always the most vulnerable victims of any situation, be it poverty, natural and man-made disasters, displacement, social biases and prejudices.

Why are we so easily able to ignore this crisis engulfing our children? Is it because they are children? Or because we don’t believe their situation can really change? Or because they can’t vote? Or because we weren’t really serious when we promised them their rights - to survival, development, protection and participation? Yes- these rights were promised to our children in 1947 and enshrined in the Indian Constitution and reiterated in 1992 when India signed the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Children.

The persistence of these problems, their scale and severity call for more than philanthropic responses. At CRY America, we’ve learned that permanent change is possible only when children, their parents and communities are informed about their rights and engage with their local government bodies to address the root causes of their problems. Based on this, we’ve evolved our philosophy of community mobilization. We believe that the "child rights" approach is the most effective way to ensure sustainable change, increase awareness and enlist greater support for children, as opposed to the ’relief’ approach which treats children as objects of sympathy.

CRY America and CRY have witnessed this approach work in thousands of rural, tribal and slum communities across India. In just over 5 years, CRY America has transformed the lives of more than 156,000 children living across 1211 rural and urban communities in India and the USA. . Thanks to the organization’s emphasis on child rights, families now have viable livelihoods, State schools and health centers are functioning and girls, whose very existence was threatened by infanticide and neglect, have now become the flag bearers of their communities. This has been achieved by building awareness about child rights, establishing their linkage to the urgent issues of livelihood that bedevil parents and mobilizing whole communities to overcome their many differences in the interests of their children.

Everything that has been achieved thus far has been made possible because of the committed support of hundreds of committed volunteers across 22 US cities and thousands of donors across the USA who believed that "Change is possible, because I’ll make it possible."

So we know it’s possible. But if this transformation has to go beyond a few thousand communities, then we need to do more. We need to build a future that is not just prosperous for a few, but secure for all children. But doing so on any significant scale will require at least 4 things to happen.

First, we must start seeing children as citizens with rights as inviolate as our own, rather than objects of charity. Second, their interests must become the centerpiece and touchstone of policy, be it at the level of the State, the organizations we work in, even within our neighborhoods and families. Their well-being must become the standard by which we measure our success. Third, those policies and the everyday choices we make, must seek to address the root causes of children’s problems and not just their superficial symptoms.

Finally, we must all - as parents, teachers, investors, neighbors, businesspersons, lawyers, consumers, activists, students, judges, administrators, journalists and politicians alike - reconfigure our priorities to put children first. Because working with and for children has convinced us that the "child rights" approach is the only one that works and that the alternatives are not just ineffective, they are unjust.

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