Bengaluru: He might be 63, a taxi driver and a political advisor in Norway, but his heart beats for children in India. Mr Kjetil Utne, also a member of the city council of Trondheim, decided to embark on a 10,000 km cycle expedition to spread the message of child rights and child participation across the world, the idea which struck him when he first visited India in January 2009.
His cycling mission, ‘Norway-India Bikeathon: #CycleForChildRights’, passed through Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and Pakistan before entering India. Throughout his journey in these 12 countries, he advocated dialogue, education and awareness on child rights, child participation and child labour.
The unique bikeathon will culminate in the city on Thursday. Mr Utne credited the Concerned for Working Children (CWC), a city-based social welfare organisation known at the global level, for making his pursuit a reality.
He told Deccan Chronicle, “Ever since I met Ms Kavita Ratna (Director – Advocacy at CWC) and her team, children’s rights have become a priority in my work as a politician back home. It is a fact that child participation is often forgotten by adults, as most of them want to do the best for their children, but believe they know more than the children as to what is better for them, leading to wrong decisions on several instances,” he said.
Asked what he wanted to achieve through his bikeathon, he said that the unique way was chosen to get everybody interested. “There are two ideas – one is to create a unique opportunity for children by fighting for children’s rights and the other is to raise funds for Namma Bhoomi (an exclusive campus set up by CWC near Kundapura town, Udupi District on the foothills of Western Ghats and on the banks of river Varahi where children and their facilitators live, learn and play together). It is important that every child should have an opportunity to learn and play like every other child. This place should be a model for all other institutions in India. It is important to support that and therefore I’m doing a fundraiser for Namma Bhoomi,” he said.
The journey which was endorsed by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and many other leaders at different parts of the world will cover areas in Tumakuru district on Wednesday and Nelamangala town before entering the city on Thursday. Also supported by the Rotary Club in Trondheim, the expedition has raised over Rs 20 lakh till date.
Mr Utne said, “It is impossible not to come back to India again and I have invited CWC to Norway to participate in some projects. We have created a very special relationship. India is now what I call my second home.”
Photo project by children
A photo project involving children is the major highlight of the expedition apart from the electric trike (a track cycle with three wheels - two wheels front and one behind) that he has used for the campaign. “In every country, I have asked a lot of poor children to take photos, leaving it to their individual choices. I then seek explanations for the kind of photos that they have taken which enables me to converse about their daily life, their dreams and so on. Around 50 children have been interviewed and have been given cameras to take photos, and the content will be for a digital expedition next year,” Mr Utne said....