The Bernard van Leer Foundation commits to highlighting advocacy, training, service delivery and civic action in India to ensure safe and healthy neighborhoods for children growing up in urban slums. Developed in conjunction with a select number of municipal and local governments, this program will initially focus on four mid-sized cities - Hyderabad, Bhopal, Pune and a cluster of cities in Odisha, one of India's poorest states - that have been targeted by the federal government's Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM).
At the completion of the commitment, urban renewal in these first four cities will be young child friendly and urban development policies that incorporate children's needs, participation, and rights will be identified and implemented.
To achieve these objectives, the Bernard van Leer Foundation has devised five program strategies. First, the Foundation will develop child friendly, safe, and healthy neighborhoods in slums. These will serve as demonstration projects that can be scaled up in other Indian cities. Second, stakeholders involved with urban development programs will be trained to create better, inclusive, and child friendly neighborhoods. Third, the number of government funded anganwadis childcare centers in slums will be increased in order to address the immediate problems of food security, expectant and lactating mother's nutrition, and children's pre-school education. The Foundation will also publicize an annual report named the 'State of Urban Poor Young Children.' This report will raise awareness on young children's needs. Finally, the program will support a policy watch initiative that will monitor the implementation of all state, bilateral, and multilateral interventions on urban development.
The commitment timeline corresponds with the research and development component of this work. During this period, the Bernard van Leer Foundation will focus on the following:
First, a research project to establish a baseline on the needs of children under eight in urban slums will be commissioned in 2012. This research will also gather the views of diverse stakeholders - including young children and parents - in order to orient investments, measure change, and strengthen advocacy. This part of the project will be completed in 2013.
Second, four demonstration projects will be initiated over the next twelve months. They will identify best practices in the development of safe and healthy neighborhoods for young children and serve as centers of excellence for other neighborhoods and cities.
Third, beginning with an international conference to be held in India in 2013, the Foundation will provide a space for sharing best practices on the subject of child friendly urban design on this topic. From 2013 - 2015, the Foundation will define methods for sharing knowledge more systematically.
Finally, a multifaceted advocacy campaign will be launched in 2013. This will include a campaign for safe and healthy neighborhoods for urban poor young children and the launch of both a policy watch group and the annual 'State of the Urban Child' report.
India's urban population is increasing at a faster rate than its total population. By 2026, forty percent of India's population is expected to be living in urban areas. Moreover, while India has made a significant dent in poverty levels, this has not been the case with urban poverty. Of the 377 million people living in urban areas in India, 97 million are poor. In the process of looking for income, the poor have exchanged rural unemployment for urban survival.
As a result of the rapid urbanization of India, the number of children growing up in urban poverty pockets is quickly expanding. In fact, evidence indicates that one in eight urban-dwelling Indian children ages zero to six lives in a slum and 7.6 million young children live in urban poverty. Moreover, the under-five mortality among India's urban poor currently stands at 72.7, which is significantly higher than the broader urban average of 51.9. Further compounding these challenges, children growing up in urban poverty are more susceptible to diseases stemming from overcrowding, poor water quality, and inadequate sanitation.
UNICEF's latest 'State of the World's Children' report says that '... hundreds of millions of children in impoverished urban neighborhoods and informal settlements confront daily violations of their rights despite living close to institutions and services.' The work of the Bernard van Leer Foundation with the urban poor children in India will enable them to grow up safe, healthy, and in a better physical environment.