UN4U in New Delhi

20 October 2014
Student asking a question

Around 35 students from the O.P. Jindal School of International Affairs gathered at the UN House to learn more about the United Nations, its relevance, its substantial work on the ground, and also the challenges it faces. UNIC New Delhi’s Assistant Information Officer Rineeta Naik presented a quick overview of the UN and its work, and then opened the floor for a wide-ranging discussion.

Stalemates in the Security Council, the implications for countries and regions affected by conflict, and the necessity of ‘global’ responses versus the primacy of national interest, the increasing role of regional groups – many students questioned the relevance of the UN in view of these gaps between pledges and implementation.

“The challenges are real, but there is reason to hope,” Ms. Naik said. “Countries realize that most problems transcend national borders, and it is almost impossible to arrive at solutions without the engagement of the international community.”

The UN is not just about what goes on at the high table, although it is a significant part of the Organization’s work, she observed. There is an enormous amount of work that takes place on the ground – on issues such as healthcare, climate change, the protection of refugees, peacekeeping, disaster management, humanitarian relief, water and sanitation, food security, and the regulation of trade, among others. The UN also provides technical assistance and policy guidance on a range of issues, working in concert with governments, she added. 

The UN is called upon to do more and more, and the available resources are often inadequate. However, “it is the enduring belief in, and commitment to, the UN’s founding ideals – that keep the organization going.”

The UN also considers young people to be an important constituency, Ms. Naik said, and “we invite you to get involved – support our campaigns, send us your views and suggestions, and participate in the global effort to achieve peace, development and human rights for all.”

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In a Bhubaneswar slum, working towards education, employment and toilets

19 October 2014
Students at the school

At the far end of the Salia Sahi slum in Bhubaneswar, young children scamper around outside their little two-room school, racing back into class only when their teacher calls out to say it’s time for lessons to begin. “We learn Oriya, English, Social Studies and Maths!” declares 7-year-old Mitali Nayak, prompting several of her classmates to stand up and talk about the subjects they like. 

The school was built with the assistance of the Parichay Foundation, a Bhubaneswar-based NGO that provides primary education to children in the slum and also helps the women in the slum with skills training so that they can get decent work. Most of the men work as carpenters, cooks, or are employed with the municipal corporation.

According to UNICEF, Odisha has the highest percentage of out-of-school children aged between six and 14 in India, and about one-third of women in the state are married by age 18.

NGOs like the Parichay Foundation are helping to change that. 

“The space the school stands on was previously used as an open toilet,” said Minerva, coordinator at Parichay. “We are still trying to get funds to build a proper toilet for the schoolchildren.”

“A toilet is crucial for the children to remain healthy and disease-free,” UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman observed. “The lack of adequate, private toilet facilities is a major reason for girls dropping out of school.”

“It is also important that the children understand the importance of handwashing – so many diseases can be avoided if they understand and follow this practice.”

UNIC becomes supporter of Healthcare Mela

19 October 2014
Participants taking part in a CPR session

UNIC New Delhi joined NGO Heart Care Foundation of India in presenting a five-day Perfect Health Mela organized 15 -19 October at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium in New Delhi. Renowned dignitaries such as India’s Attorney General  Mukul Rohatgi, President of the Delhi Unit of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party Satish Upadhayay and New Delhi Municipal Corporation Chairman Jalaj Srivastava, joined UNIC Director Kiran Mehra- Kerpelman in inaugurating the health advocacy fair. 

Started in 1993, the Perfect Health Mela is a mass health awareness module, which caters to people from all age groups and walks of life. Its primary activities include health check-up camps, entertainment programmes, lifestyle exhibitions, workshops and inter college and school competitions.  This year’s Mela was organized in joint collaboration with the New Delhi Municipal Corporation and the UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan, along with  several other corporate and government partners.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, the President of Heart Care Foundation of India, Dr. K.K. Aggarwal said: “We at Heart Care Foundation of India are extremely delighted to organize the Perfect Health Mela that promotes the concept of “Swach Bharat, Swasth Bharat” (Clean India; Healthy India!)  By simply observing hygiene in water and environment, up to 50% of the diseases can be prevented!”

In her address, UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman called attention to the UN’s Global Handwashing Day being observed that very day. She said: “We have to realize how the small steps which we take make a much larger difference than we can ever see or know. For example, washing your hands today could prevent you from getting a disease that might cost you or your parents a huge amount of money to treat – if you saved that money, you could use it to give yourself a better education, to get a better job, to build a better life for yourself and your family in the future. It is in our minds, our actions and our lives that we must create a change.”

Later, the UNIC Director joined all the dignitaries in participating in a CPR practice session. She was also given the National Excellence Award 2014 by the Heart Care Foundation of India and its partners.

UN Reading Room in Bhubaneswar

18 October 2014
Students at the school

UNIC Director Kiran Mehra-Kerpelman inaugurated a UN Reading Room at the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences in Bhubaneswar, housed in a sprawling campus where underprivileged students, particularly tribal and indigenous young people from Odisha, can access free education and boarding facilities from kindergarten right up to graduation. “Education is the surest way to development and a better future,” Ms. Mehra-Kerpelman said to the young students. “If you read, study and keep learning, there is nothing that you can’t achieve.”

The campus has a vibrant atmosphere, with mosaic designs and tribal art on the walls, and even a replica of the famous Jagannath Puri temple on the grounds. For the students, it is a home away from home, in an ambience that is also conducive to learning. Many of the students have excelled in academics as well as sports – the institute has a star rugby team – and there is significant emphasis on the protection and preservation of tribal heritage through various cultural activities.

The Reading Room will hold UN publications on a range of issues, and the host institution was also encouraged to provide translations of some basic publications in local languages. “This is the digital age, we know, but physical libraries are still important,” Ms. Mehra-Kerpelman added, urging the students to make good use of the Reading Room.