Born with speech and hearing impairment, Phynjoplang, 14, is very happy that Khrim, his interpreter and "best pal", is accompanying him to the UN to talk about inclusive education for both disabled and abled children.
When Phynjoplang stands in front of hundreds of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on Sep 24, Khrim, a 20-year-old tribal woman who also suffers from mild physical disability, will convey his ideas of making the world a better place to live in. "There should not be any discrimination.
I will demand inclusive education for all at the UN," Phynjoplang conveyed through Khrim in sign language to IANS. The two friends will join nine other children for an exciting journey to New York where they will put forward their demands on behalf of India's millions of children for proper healthcare, safe drinking water, well-equipped schools and protection from abuse and neglect.
The 11 children will begin their 10-day journey to New York on Sep 17. Spearheaded by a child advocacy group 'Nine is Mine', these children are hopeful that their demands will be included in the agenda of the Millenium Development Goals of 2015. "I am nervous and excited too. For the first time I will stand before the leaders of the world and demand a better future for children.
It is a tremendous feeling," Phynjoplang added, as Khrim nodded in response. "I demand better education for the diabled children. Why shouldn't they study with abled children? Why this discrimination?" Khrim asked. Another participant, Poonam Kumari, 13, will raise her voice for ending child marriage based on her own struggles and experience. "I ran away from my home two years back because my parents were planning to get me married. If I hadn't run away I would be living a miserable life just like my two sisters," Poonam Kumari, who is from Bihar, told IANS. Though only two children of the group can understand English, they are determined to make their voices heard from an international platform.
For most of them this is the first visit abroad and that too to the UN. Harita Kumari from Tamil Nadu can only speak in her native language, while Nayan Sarki from Kalimpong, a hill station in West Bengal, can only talk in Nepali. But both know what they have to say in front of the world audience. While Harita wants equal rights for the girl child, Nayan is keen that India eradicates hunger.
Anees from Shillong in Meghalaya wants India to end child labour, especially for those working in the mines in Jaintia hills in the northeast. "You should go and see the condition in which these kids live in the mines. Most of them are trafficked and forced into this kind of job which is very dangerous," Anees, 15, told IANS.
Similarly, for Surbhi and Risabh from Delhi, their demands are for equality and an adequate platform for the many deprived children. For 14-year-old Swarna Laxmi, who is blind, it will be her second chance to speak at the UN this year.
"In March, I talked about violence against women and children. This time my voice is for equal opportunity for the children with disability," she said with pride reflecting in her voice. As all of them are minors, Rekha Kumari, 20, has taken the responsibility to act as the convenor and look after the group members too.
Though she has an artificial leg and walks with the help of crutches, Rekha said she has nothing to complain about in life.
"My demand is simple. I want good healthcare for the underprivileged section of society. What I have gone through, others should not face the same," she said. Rekha said she lost her leg after a doctor in a Delhi hospital injected her with wrong medicines when she was just two years old. "My leg had to be amputated. I use an artificial leg, but need the support of crutches to move around," she said.
"We just want the world leaders to know how the underprivileged children live. We demand a better life, a life that gives us equal opportunity and privileges," she said.