The concept of Balasabha was introduced in Kudumbashree based on its understanding of poverty and its different manifestations. It was based on the realisation that enhancement of capabilities of children from poor families that inter-generational transmission of poverty could be prevented.
Kudumbashree community organisation took up the initiative to organise children of Kudumbashree families; in the process, Balasabhas were formed in neighbourhoods. The Balasabhas were federated at ward level to form Balasamities. At the panchayat/CDS level, there are Bala panchayats as the third tier.
- Balasabha at NHG level
- Balasamiti at ADS/ ward level
- Bala panchayat at CDS/LSG level
Capacity enhancement of children is attempted through the following methods.
- Small learning groups for experimental and systematic learning
- Organised activities for developing understanding of democratic processes
- Awareness creation on environment through participation in conservation programmes
- Enabling children to understand the intricacies of collective action
Organisation and Functioning
Fifteen to thirty children of the age group 5-15 years form a Balasabha. Balasabha is registered with the CDS and every year the registration is to be renewed. Local Self Governments can provide financial support to activities organised by Balasabhas. Every Balasabha has a leader and deputy leader, one of whom has to be a girl.
Balasabhas meet every month; Balasamiti meetings are held bimonthly.
Children’s collectives are proving to be highly effective social forums not only addressing issues relating to their own rights; they are also offering new avenues of learning to the society as a whole.
When children start collectively realising the need to include those with special needs, it is no doubt a step towards a future that is sensitive to the needs of the people with disabilities.
Bala Panchayats and Bala Nagarsabhas are LSG level organisations. These are also democratically elected; a boy and a girl represent each Balasamiti in the Bala Panchayat or Bala Nagarasabha.
Executive Committee of Bala Panchayat the following members.
- Vice President
- Chairpersons of four standing committees on
- Health and Environment
- Child Rights
- Sports, Arts, and Culture
Standing Committees are forums for discussion on the respective topics; children bring up their ideas and opinions to the LSG Committee, thus becoming part of the development process of the local body.
There are Bala parliaments at the district and state levels.
Status of Balasabha
- Number of Balasabhas 40,869
- Number of children in Balasabhas 3 lakh
- Number of Bala panchayats 978
- Number of Bala Nagarasabhas (Urban) 65
In a remote village of Njallur near Konni in Pathanamthitta district, the Balasabha took the initiative to get a bus stop sanctioned at a safe and convenient spot for school-going children. These children had to struggle against the commercial interests of private bus operators and even local goons to achieve this. Eventually, the entire village got a bus stop thanks to the children and their Balasabha.
Balasabha activities are meant to build self-confidence in children from poor families and expose them to society and nature. Children of poor families typically lack the opportunities to gain knowledge and confidence. In the current context wherein social and community spaces are dwindling, children from poor families are likely to get increasingly isolated. Balasabha programmes support them to develop a positive attitude and a better understanding of the society that they live in and also the nature that they are part of.
Balasabhas in several panchayats formulated and implemented programmes that helped children understand nature and biodiversity. When the children of Kundamkuzhy in Kasaragod district went to visit the sacred groves at Valiyapara, Adukkathambalam, it became a celebration of biodiversity.
When the children from the Balasabha at Thekkumbhagom in Kollam district went out exploring land, water, and air, they found it as a leap towards loving the earth. Children in Idukki went exploring the forest in a programme that they called ‘Knowing our Land’.
The rural CDS system in Malappuram had experimented with Balasabha with reasonable levels of success. UNICEF’s presence in the evolution of the CDS system must have also contributed to the evolution of Balasabha as a concept. However, the well organised Balasabhas as they exist today originated in the current Kudumbashree system.
As children’s Balasabha in Alappuzha took up the responsibility to repair, protect and maintain public water taps, it was a message to a lot of people – a message on the society’s responsibility to protect was and use it discreetly.
In several places Balasabhas took up sports and physical training as important initiatives. These include girls getting trained in badminton, children taking on to swimming, girls training in martial arts, and volley ball coaching.
Balasabhas are also into science education and writing of local histories.