Aarambh: Supporting Communities to Safeguard Children
A 2012 report from the National Crime Records Bureau said that a child in India is raped every 76 minutes, while according to 2007 research commissioned by the Department of Women and Child Welfare, 53 percent of children report suffering sexual assault. If the number of unreported cases, harassment and online sexual abuse are included, the problem affects exponentially more children.
In 2012, the government introduced a new law on the topic, Prevention of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). Although this is a comprehensive set of regulations on paper, its implementation leaves much to be desired.
Additionally, there are not many organisations in India working on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) in a focused manner. And even fewer work together. There also has been little documentation of best practices and guidelines. We felt the need for a common platform for learning and sharing on CSA built around POCSO and implementation of that law.
From this sentiment, Aarambh was born. Thus, when in November last year www.aarambhindia.org went live, it became India’s first online resource portal against CSA. For the first time, all available knowledge and resources on the issue were meticulously researched, consolidated and curated for targeted groups. The portal also functions as a central platform for organisations and individuals working on the issue where they can learn more about each other and their work. Hopefully this facilitates strategic collaborations and partnerships.
Aarambh emerged as an extension of ADM Capital Foundation’s ‘Break the Silence’ (BTS) campaign, which began as a collaboration with Philippines-based Stairway Foundation (SF) in 2011. As part of that, in 2012, ADMCF country manager for India, Uma Subramanian, was trained in CSA Prevention by SF. Back in India, the new initiative found support, guidance and a local partner in the Mumbai-based Organisation Prerana who had been working on child protection and anti-human trafficking for the past 28 years. Uma and Siddharth Pillai, who was hired later, took the experience and knowledge built while traveling India and speaking to organisations working with children, as a base to build Aarambh. They introduced or developed materials that were relevant to the Indian context.
The Safety Network, a group of more than 25 national and international NGOs, has been critical to Aarambh’s early success, providing material for the portal and more. www.aarambhindia.org is designed to foster a future where every individual has easy access to information that helps them protect and safeguard a child, where justice is delivered with minimum trauma to the victims. The idea is for society to move beyond the culture of ‘silence’ and taboos and begin to talk about bodies, sexuality and abuse openly and without fear.
Some feature of the website are:
- The Child Safety & You page which lists curated resources that target eight specific groups – parents, teachers, reporters, lawyers, doctors, police, NGO’s and academicians
- Printable infographics that illustrate laws and guidelines into easily understandable nuggets
- A directory of national and international organisations working on CSA
- Pages such as s What’s POCSO, the ABCs of CSA and Online Safety that offer valuable 101s to the novice user
- A curated Video page with materials from across the world
The Launch of www.aarambhindia.org
Bollywood Superstar & Entrepreneur, Ms. Juhi Chawla and National Award Winning film director, Mr. Nagesh Kukunoor, helped launch Aarambh along with a packed audience of parents, teachers, social workers, researchers, students and corporate professionals.
A panel discussion followed on “What should be the next steps in taking the issue of CSA to its tipping point?” Experts in research, advocacy, law, community activism, medicine and the arts spoke on how we can act to stop CSA. Read our blog about the panel here.
In 2015, among Aarambh’s goals are to:
- Advocate for Child Friendly Spaces in hospitals, courtrooms, police stations and more
- Build a dedicated team for research on the issue of CSA in India
- Develop a comprehensive training module on Online Safety and Cyber Bullying
- Pilot an E-learning module for prevention of CSA
- Develop training content in local languages and pilot training in one rural area
- Strengthen the “Mumbai Children’s Safety Network” and scale up the model
- Strengthen the work of Child Welfare Committees establishing a support group of social workers and NGOs
- Advocate at the State and Central levels on POCSO with a specific focus on “Mandatory reporting of sexual offences against children”
- Continue to innovate in communications and technology to reach a wider audience with simple messages.
www.aarambhindia.org marks the beginning of our journey. From that vantage, we see the road that lies ahead. And at the end of the road, we see a better future for India’s children.
Written by Siddharth Pillai
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