Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials recently did an interaction with municipal school students representing Bal Parishad and Bal Panchayat- the advocacy and leadership forums created by NGO Salaam Bombay Foundation to mark the World Cancer Day.
This year’s event which was centred around the theme ‘Collaboration for A Healthier Generation’ saw 250 selected students from 350 schools across the city coming together to interact with government officials on issues like general nutrition, tobacco-free school policy, The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 or COTPA, 2003, food and health policies, tobacco-free public places, prohibition on direct and indirect advertisements related to tobacco, etc.
Concerns on issues related to general health and nutrition among youngsters were discussed with the officials. These students who are also part of the NGO’s In-School Preventive Health Programme has developed a network of peer advocates and share strategies for change in their communities.
Select school members of the Bal Panchayat has formed the Bal Parishad which meets policymakers every year and organises such event on the lines of a Model United Nations. Since 2007, Bal Panchayat and Bal Parishad have been providing government school students the opportunity to raise their voice and create action on various issues that affect their health and well-being.
The previous editions of Bal Parishad have set some inspiring precedents where the questions and demands raised by the students have prompted officials to take strong action. Some of the questions raised by them were in spite of the tobacco free school policy taken by the government, there are schools where the policy is still not effective.
The event was also attended by Sandesh Rewale, senior police inspector – Crime Branch and Enforcement Department – Mumbai Police, Sailesh Adhav, joint commissioner, FDA, Maharashtra, Dr. Krishna Methekar, Deputy Director, Western Region, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) India, Ranjana Rao – assistant education officer, Education Department, South Mumbai, Maharashtra, Dr. Arun Nakwa – health executive officer, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and Suvarna Joshi – associate editor, News 18 Lokmat.
A unique feature of this year’s Bal Parishad was an exciting food festival that was all about healthy recipes created at a very low cost. Some of the best recipes were chosen and displayed at the food festival – each showcasing the ingredients used in the creation along with their detailed nutritional value all laid out for visitors.
Tshering D. Bhutia, vice president – Projects (In-School Preventive Health & Research), Salaam Bombay Foundation said, “Bal Parishad is a platform where students get to interact with officials in important government positions and for the latter to get to know what these youngsters want for their future. All our Bal Parishad sessions have yielded very fruitful results. This year, the focus was on creating awareness about what it takes to bring about a healthier future generation.”
Salaam Bombay Foundation started in 2002 to work with 12 to 17 year old adolescent children growing up in Mumbai’s slums. Many are undernourished and face the risk of substance abuse. The Foundation keeps children in school by empowering them to make the right choices about their health, education and livelihood thereby ensuring that they can thrive with a bright future.
In-school leadership and advocacy programmes equip “at-risk” adolescents with the life skills they need to lead change.