A trip to remember – My experience of Surabaya, Indonesia

Published September 14, 2016 – by Malathy Yadav

I am Malathy Yadav, a child Advocate from Gautam Nagar slum in Mumbai. Recently I was selected to participate in the third session of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom3) of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) held in Surabaya, Indonesia from 25 – 27 July, 2016.

When I heard that I would be part of the delegation from Humara Bachpan, I was filled with mixed emotions. I was elated and thrilled and was a little nervous at the same time. This was going to be my first international trip! I had heard, from my fellow child advocates, about travelling to foreign countries to attend meetings and conferences, each time silently wishing to be a part of one such conference. And now my wish was getting fulfilled!

But the story does not end here. My dream was being fulfilled but as they say ‘nothing comes easy’. Now began the real hassle – my parents’ consent, getting my passport done, seeking consent from my school and all the other paperwork involved. Sagar, the City Coordinator of the Humara Bachpan Campaign, spoke to my parents and explained to them about my selection to attend the conference. My parents were extremely happy on learning about it and agreed immediately. Now the challenge was my passport! I thought it would not be difficult getting a passport, but I did not have the documents in place: my birth certificate had my date of birth printed wrong! With less and less time remaining for the travel, I felt like I had lost the opportunity and my heart broke. But thanks to Kiran Bhaiya, the Program Coordinator at HBC, we got the necessary changes made to my birth certificate and finally I was issued my passport in time.

I was amazed by the beauty of Indonesia. Everything was very clean and green. On reaching the hotel, we rested for the day since we had to attend the conference the next day. We all got up early and reached the venue, the Grand City Convention Centre. We waited in the queue to get ourselves registered and finally were allowed entry into the conference.

I visited the exhibition area where there was a stall from India. I learnt about how different organisations across the world are working on the same issues. From the session that I attended on children’s perspectives, I realised the importance of children’s participation and how essential urban planning is. I intend to share this with other child club members in my community.

My best memories from the conference are the field visits. The people were extremely friendly in Indonesia. I visited the housing colonies in Surabaya and learnt about their waste management system, child care centers, water treatment system and above all community participation. I wish we could also have similar experiences in Mumbai that people can come and see. I dream of a better living space and I know for sure that it’s going to happen one day.

I am thankful to HBC and the Bernard van Leer Foundation for giving me this opportunity, which was an experience of a lifetime. I am the first girl from my neighbourhood to travel abroad and attend an international conference. I am hopeful that next time if I am given an opportunity to attend a conference, I get to speak about my experience or about children’s perspectives, like Rupak. I have learnt a lot from the visit, which I have been sharing with my community members, friends and other child club members. I can use the same learning when we plan for our community. I was also interviewed by a television channel and newspaper regarding my PrepCom3 trip.

Author: Malathy Yadav, child advocate from Humara Bachpan Campaign, Gautam Nagar