“Not all wounds are visible.”
In our country, every second child, be it a boy or a girl faces one or more forms of sexual abuse.
Our Children spend about fifteen years of formative learning in schools. It is hard to imagine a life without parents, teachers, and friends. Family and schools are the two most important institutions in our lives. The schools are called ALMA MATER meaning “nurturing mother”. No doubt, we all have gathered vivid and unique experiences from our schooling life. In a school, one grows step by step, making friends and at times breaking a friendship; winning and at times losing; being rewarded and at times punished and a whole lot more. The experiences and memories that we carry throughout our life about our school years are pleasant but unfortunately, this is not true for all.
“One can spend a lifetime trying to forget a few moments of one’s childhood.”
In fact, there are a large number of children who for no fault of their face the problem of sexual abuse. Then there are other types of abuses that too are taking place; bullying, physical abuse, online (internet/Cyber) abuse is a few examples. Besides, gender inequality embedded in our society right from the birth of a child aggravates the situation. Remember! The abuse can be inflicted by an adult or a child itself.
The PROBLEM of child sexual abuse (CSA) that occurs during the schooling years need not necessarily happen in the school premise itself. The PROBLEM is not location specific, and it may happen to any child at any place like home, school and public spaces like a park, bus, pantheon, amongst others. The abusers look and behave quite normally (and are often someone is the position of trust and responsibility) till they get a chance to create a situation where they are not under anyone’s watchful eyes. The child becomes even more vulnerable when they have lack of knowledge or specific training for their safety. So, we, as stakeholders can stand up to the task of enabling them with the right kind of knowledge, value education and life skills through the most powerful and familiar medium – THEIR BOOKS.
“A good book is a good friend indeed.”
When the students in schools read all kinds of books ranging from hardcore subject books like Science, Mathematics, amongst others, to supplementary books on life skills, general knowledge, moral science, etc. then why should they not read or be taught life skills and value education based books that are centered about prevention of child abuse, and creating awareness about child rights and gender equality and about various laws related to child rights.
Remember! The PROBLEM of CSA is no fault of the child. It is the fault of the abuser and the failure of the society as a whole for being conspicuously silent about the PROBLEM. It is one of those acute problems that everyone acknowledges but unfortunately it remains shrouded in silence. The reason for our “bury your head in the sand” approach to CSA is the social stigma attached to the child, their family and the school that faces the PROBLEM. So who will bell the cat?
“School should not preserve the problems to which they are a solution.”
The time has come to break the silence by initiating a series of institutional (school) driven dialogues and behavior changes required among the stakeholders i.e. children, parents, teachers and non-teaching staff to solve the PROBLEM. It is the need of the hour.
“Prevention is better than cure.”
Project CACA i.e. Children Against Child Abuse is such a project that has evolved under a democratic chain of events of opinion polls, Focus Group and Panel Discussions, Consensus Building Discussions and a Pilot programme run in 15 districts; 20 schools covering 21,000+ students; their parents, teachers and non teaching staff in the academic year 2017-18.
Project CACA is a child rights-based project. It follows a child-centric and holistic approach that creates a safety net for children against CSA through:
- circulation of age-appropriate and progressive safety workbooks based on life skills and value education (kindergarten to class 12),
- companion parent-teacher resource booklet and
- various supportive sensitization cum awareness workshops for teachers, parents and non teaching staff on CSA, child rights, gender equality and various laws related to child rights like POCSO ACT AND JJA.
The empowering CACA safety workbooks under Project CACA in the hands of EVERYONE build confidence in them and at the same time demonstrate to the ABUSERS that EVERYONE has joined hands together against them. A school with CACA Safety Workbook Series makes it a CACA enabled school with zero tolerance towards abuse. The project can be made an inherent part of child rights policy/ safety of schools. It is important to know that:-
- These safety workbooks are not on sex education.
- They are not referenced books for the school library. In fact, they are to be embedded in students’ timetable just like their science or mathematics or life skill books.
The project has been developed and is being run under a committee of experienced and subject matter experts. The content of the workbooks is in the form of age appropriate stories, poems, plays, activities and a whole lot more. The safety workbooks have been judiciously mapped with an animated film “Komal” on CSA by Childline India Foundation and MWCD; Life Skills prescribed by CBSE/ WHO; Adolescence Education Programme (AEP) by NCERT and UNFPA (MHRD); Reader for teachers and parents on Raising Happy Children and providing Safe Childhoods by MWCD and various circulars/ guidelines/ notifications/ advisories issued from time to time on child rights, child safety and gender equality by various school boards like CBSE/ CISCE, Commissions for protections of child rights, Supreme Court and other related organisations .
The project creates a safety net for students by connecting schools to various related institutions/ NGOs like I-Probono, Counsel to Secure Justice, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare; District Legal Service Authorities; Child Welfare Committees; State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights; and more…
Remember! The essence of the project is not Authority, Accountability, and Competition but Responsibility, Trust, and Collaboration. The self-sustainability of the project is based on the paid circulation of CACA safety workbooks in the English language in private schools affiliated to state, center and foreign boards. The companion parent-teacher resource booklet is being translated into Hindi and various Indian regional languages.
The National Policy for Children 1974, Government of India, declares that the children are the ‘supreme asset of the nation’ and we believe empowerment of children can be the single most impactful step that can be taken to challenge and face the issue.
“Schools should not preserve the problems to which they are a solution.”
The time has come to break the silence by initiating a series of school driven dialogues and behavior changes required among the stakeholders i.e. children, parents, teachers and non-teaching staff to solve the PROBLEM. It is the need of the hour.
We invite you to join hands with us to break the silence and fight against the menace of Child Abuse.
Chairperson Project CACA Committee
General Secretary – COBSE – Council of Boards of School Education