The first Asia Meet of Parliamentarians Without Borders for Children’s Rights was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 3 & 4 April 2017, with participation from about 13 Members of Parliament from 5 Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. As South Asia is the second largest region of trafficking, it has become increasingly imperative for the region, to take the issue of trafficking and child labour seriously and find sustainable solutions to combat the same. Thus the first Asia Meeting of PWB was organised to bring these issues into context and to encourage Members of Parliaments to prioritise the issue of children and take action to not only restore rights of children within their countries and constituencies but also to influence policies at the regional level such as that of SAARC or ASEAN.
The meeting began with knowing the Parliamentarians present and the situation of child labour, slavery and trafficking in their respective countries. At the meeting, the main themes which were focussed upon were “Legislators’ Role in Combatting Trafficking Related Exploitation of Children, Especially of Girls and Women”, “Legislators’ Role in Improving and Strengthening Access to Quality Education for All: Building the Future of Nation and Asia,” and the “Legislators’ Role in Supporting Elimination of Child Labour in Business Supply Chains, Integrating Children’s Rights with Business Principles.” From the discussions under these themes, it became clearer that Parliamentarians must think and act beyond borders, as the problems of children have no boundaries. The Parliamentarians collectively stated that a dedicated day in the Parliament must discuss only the issue of children’s rights and that quality, inclusive and equitable education must be delivered no matter what.
The co-founder of this initiative, Mr. Kailash Satyarthi encouraged the Parliamentarians by saying that now is the time for them to show their bold leadership. There are very few champions for the cause of children in the Parliament, and taking action for children can make them different from others. He furthered motivated by reminding them of the power of democracy that this region is endowed with and that we must use this opportunity to speak up for the most marginalised people and children of the region, and also against the fundamentalist propaganda that is increasingly clouding the atmosphere of the nations. He asked the Parliamentarians to build youth leadership and direct their energies constructively for the betterment of children.
The meeting thus ended with a proposal of making the initiative of Parliamentarians Without Borders for Children’s Rights a self-funded and self-regulated body. The meeting also concluded with the idea that each PWB member must focus on the Parliamentary Forums in their own countries and take support from their Parliaments through dedicated sessions on children’s rights, interventions on daily basis, involving local communities and stakeholders and looking out for ways of financing the group activities. Writing a joint letter to the SAARC Secretariat to pass a resolution on children was also proposed along with deciding a plan of action for the Asian Parliamentarians to move forward. The meeting ended with signing of a declaration that was endorsed by all members present.