Child Safety Net (Indien)
Vijayawada is a provincial city with around one million inhabitants and strong automotive, iron and textile industries. These sectors attract many migrant workers, including many children. The weakest among this group are the street children, who have to live with no protection from the elements or from violence.
Around half of these children who flood into the city come from the villages around Vijayawada. The Indian NGO “Navajeevan Bala Bhavan” (www.njbb.org) works on the streets to gain the trust of the children.
They receive a meal and medical care in so-called shelters (drop-in centres in the slums). Among other things, the organisation sees to it that the street children can stay overnight in a local school.
Another of Navajeevan’s main tasks is to offer the children rehabilitation. To this end, the project runs several houses in which the children can live and receive an education.
The project also tries to locate the children’s parents and point out ways in which they could return to their families.
All these activities are funded by donations from Germany, the Netherlands, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, among other sources.
Last October, Martin Suckow, a friend of long-standing action five member Marie Renard, presented a new project run by Navajeevan, designed to expand its work with street children. Martin Suckow had frequently visited the project and knew Thomas Koshy personally.
This project would establish a so-called Child Safety Net. The objective is form teams of five people each across 114 schools in 10 villages in the vicinity of Vijayawada. These should then act as confidants and offer a drop-in centre for abused and neglected children. The project members should advise the children of their rights so that they can assert them if need be, e.g. the right to physical integrity and personal development.
In 1992, India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and is thus obliged to protect children from exploitation on economic, cultural or social grounds and from work of any kind.
Furthermore, a programme is to be developed to permit girls from disadvantaged castes to attend the schools mentioned above. A code of conduct for school staff and pupils is also to be established, according to which, among other things, all forms of violence on the school premises would be prohibited. The school staff are to be trained in matters relating to violence and cases of abuse.
If incidents of violence or abuse are reported, or if the children affected contact the teams, the local authorities and police are to be involved. These cases are to be reported and logged. If an official complaint should be made, or the case go to court, the children are to be given help and support. Abused children who contact the teams are to be given medical and psychological care.
To this end action five is funding the education of trainers who themselves are to train the teams in the schools. They should ensure that standards previously established at the schools are adhered to. The teams are made up of three members from the school’s local area and two from local authorities, and they work on a voluntary basis.
Thanks to the work of these teams, cases of abuse are to be logged for the first time. Using this information, it will be possible to gauge whether the awareness training has improved the children’s situation over the course of time. By offering our support, we hope to contribute to a lasting improvement in the condition of the street children.
In December, we decided to support the “Child Safety Net” project with a contribution of EUR 6,400.