The campaign was launched by World Vision India which is a Chennai-based humanitarian organisation.

Campaign to end child sexual abuse launched in Karnataka targets govt schools
news Child Sexual Abuse Wednesday, July 18, 2018 - 08:32

“It takes every Indian to end child sexual abuse”, read the motto of a Karnataka-wide campaign to end child sexual abuse. Launched on Tuesday in Bengaluru by World Vision India, the campaign seeks to involve stakeholders – from local NGOs to children themselves, in order to prevent child sexual abuse.

World Vision India is a Chennai-based humanitarian organisation that works for the upliftment of children and their families living in poverty and facing injustice.

The launch, which happened at Christ University, was presided over by Kripa Alva, former Chairperson of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

It also had eminent guests such as Dr Usha, District Child Protection Officer; Dr Prakash, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Bytranapura, Mysore Road; Mr Sony Kutty, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF; Dr. Venna, MBBS, Medical officer, GG Halli Primary Health Centre; Rajendran, International Justice Mission, Bangalore; Rajkumar Selwyndoss, Manager, Children Fund, Bengaluru; Victor Paul, Head of Department – Sociology & Social work, Christ University and Jonas Richard, Head of Department - Social work, Kristu Jayanti College.    

What the campaign will entail

While a nationwide campaign was launched by World Vision India in May 2017, the Karnataka launch will see them targeting almost 100 government schools across Bengaluru, Bijapur, Ballari and Gundlupet.

The key to their approach is aimed at involving local communities. Child Protection Units which will include representatives from local NGOs, community-based organisations, police, self-help groups, ASHA workers and so on.  

The campaign also involves distributing personal safety workbooks among government school children aged between 6 and 12. These books talk about personal safety, safe and unsafe touch in an age-appropriate manner, Thabitha Vani of World Vision India, said.

“We will also be having training modules for teachers and parents to educate them about the dangers of child sexual abuse,” Thabitha said.

While the workbooks are available in seven regional languages, including Kannada, they will be translated to more in the future. Thabitha also told TNM that they would be launching the campaign in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in October and November this year.   

How a community can help in protecting children

In a panel discussion that followed, dignitaries discussed the various ways in which communities could help in protecting children.

Sangeeta Saxena, the founder of Enfold - an NGO working to support child sexual abuse survivors, gave three cases studies to put across her point.

In the first, Sangeeta recounted how, when a woman shouted “Stop!” as she heard her neighbour beating his son, it worked. “The woman’s husband told her not to do anything because it was “family matter”. But had she not shouted, the boy would have continued to scream in pain from the beatings,” Sangeeta said.

In the second, Sangeeta recounted the recent incident of how a man’s observation and subsequent tweet to the Railway Ministry helped rescue 26 girls between 10-14 years of age, who were being trafficked.

The third incident she talked about was one which TNM recently reported on. She talked about how an entire community came together to help and support Padma*, a woman who collects and sells hair for a living, after her daughter Rekha* was sexually assaulted by a neighbour.

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The point Sangeeta was trying to make was clear: “When you see something, say something; do something.”

Father Edward Thomas, another panellist who is mentor and advisor at Dream India Network, talked about the role of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and educated the attendees on its procedures and functions.

Advocate Manju, who is a member of the Child Welfare Committee, made an emotional appeal to parents to pay attention to their children and what they have to say. “There are so many laws to protect children but are they being implemented? There are so many children who are being abused who tell me that no one cares about them. There is so much sorrow in them that its heart-breaking. Their parents are busy working but have no time to listen to what their children have been through,” she said.

Professor Jonas Richard, meanwhile, talked about things that can be done in our own families and neighbourhoods to ensure that children feel safe enough to come and confide in us. He added, “Unless we make children a part of the solution, we cannot eradicate child sexual abuse.”

He highlighted three levels of interventions that we can undertake: preventive, curative and rehabilitative. In the first level, we must do away with patriarchal mindsets such as boys cannot get sexually abused, monitor use of technology and so on. At the second level, Richard said that we must make it a point to really listen to our children and make them feel safe and validated. And to rehabilitate them if they have been abused, he asserted that we must rebuild their self-esteem, help them on their journey to social acceptance and reintegration.