The Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has issued Child-friendly Local Governance Implementation Guideline, 2021, to ensure that children's rights are protected and promoted at the grassroots.

The core basis of the guideline revolves around four aspects of children's rights - save the child, child protection, child development and child participation - to address various legal and policy provisions laid down in the constitution, namely, Children Act, Criminal and Civil Code Act, Local Government Operation Act, Fifteenth Plan, Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act and various national and international instruments related to children.

Joint Secretary Basanta Adhikari, MoFAGA spokesperson, said the guideline aimed to declare all 753 local levels child-friendly zones by 2030 and adopted strategies such as mainstreaming, policy advocacy and awareness, institutional development, capacity development, promotion of collaboration and partnership, community mobilisation, social accountability and transparency, equitable programmes, behaviour change and monitoring and evaluation, among others.

The guideline has set various indicators for local levels to be eligible to be declared child-friendly zone. Some of them include prenatal and postpartum care of women, access to anti-tetanus vaccine and iron pills for pregnant women, exclusive breastfeeding for six months, full immunisation of children, ARV prophyaixis for children born of HIV-infected mothers, use of iodised salt, significant drop in the number of stunted and underweight children, end of acute malnutrition, access to basic drinking water to all households, use of toilet by each household etc.

Similarly, the guideline requires the local levels to ensure birth registration of children below five years, end worst form of child labour, reduce cases of child marriage to zero, reduce cases of violence against children and trafficking significantly, establish community-based child protection network, eliminate social practices such as chhaupadi and kamlari, rescue street-dependent children, make the school free of corporal punishment, reduce dropout rate, equip schools with necessary infrastructure and form child clubs.

The guideline strives to mainstream the issues of children into governance and improve indicators of health sector, guarantee fundamental rights of children and help maintain coordination among government agencies in all three levels.

It is mandatory for each local level to spend certain amount on construction and management of child-friendly infrastructure, out of the total budget allocated for children.

As per the National Population Census-2011, Nepal's child population of age 14 and below makes up 34.9 per cent of the total population. Children aged 16 years and below constitute 39.8 per cent of the population and 44.4 per cent are below 19 years.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 21 2021, of The Himalayan Times.