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Teach children to always say ‘NO!’ to the person doing the unsafe or uncomfortable thing.

Open Letter_1

“Not all wounds are visible.”

Every second child, be it a boy or a girl, faces one or more forms of sexual abuse in our country. Source: Survey by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India – 2007

 

It is hard to imagine a life without parents, teachers, and friends. Family and schools are the two most important institutions in our lives. Children spend about fifteen years of formative learning in schools. The schools are called ALMA MATER meaning “nurturing mother”. No doubt, we all have gathered vivid and unique experiences from our school 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.”

There are many children who for no fault of their face the problem of sexual abuse. They also face other types of abuses based on the violation of child rights like bullying, physical abuse, online (internet/Cyber) abuse, domestic violence, discrimination, etc. Besides, gender inequality embedded in our society right from the birth of a child aggravates the situation. The abuse can be inflicted by an adult or a child itself.

The problem of child sexual abuse (CSA) need not necessarily happen in the school premise itself. The problem is not location/gender/culture/religion-specific. It may happen to any child at any place like home, school, family function and public spaces like a park, bus, pantheon, etc. The abusers look and behave like ordinary people until they get a chance to create a situation where they are not under anyone’s watchful eyes. In most of the cases, the abuser is not a stranger. The child becomes even more vulnerable when they lack knowledge or specific training for their safety. So, as stakeholders, we can stand up to the task of enabling them with the right kind of knowledge, value education and life skills through the most potent and familiar medium – THEIR BOOKS.

“A good book is a good friend, indeed.”

Students read all kinds of books ranging from core subject books like Science and Mathematics to supplementary books like general knowledge. Why children cannot read or be taught life skills and value-education based books that are centered around:

  • Prevention from abuses.
  • Creating awareness about child rights, gender equality, health and hygiene.

After all, we all want our children to be happy, healthy and safe.

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. There is ‘an elephant in the room’ – CSA 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?

 

“Prevention is better than cure.”

Project CACA is a child rights-based project. Its essence is not Authority, Accountability, and Competition but Responsibility, Trust, and Collaboration. It follows a child-centric and holistic approach that creates a safety net for children against CSA by involving all the stakeholders, i.e., children, parents, teachers and non-teaching staff through:

  • Circulation of age-appropriate and progressive safety workbooks based on life skills and value education  (UKG to class 12),
  • Companion parent-teacher resource booklets and
  • Various sensitization cum awareness workshops for teachers, parents and non-teaching staff

It is important to know that:-

  • The safety workbooks are not on sex education.
  • They are not ‘reference books’ for the school library.
  • They are to be embedded in students’ timetable just like their Science and Mathematics books. Here is a link for the prologue for the CACA Safety Workbooks (UKG-9) for your kind perusal.

The empowering CACA safety workbooks 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. The project can be made an inherent part of the safety/child rights policy of a school. Here is a link to the safety policy propounded by Project CACA.

Project CACA – Children Against Child Abuse is a project that has evolved under a democratic chain of events like Opinion Polls, Focus Group Discussions, Consensus Building Discussions and a Pilot Programme. It continuously evolves under Qualitative and Quantitative Assessments and Peer Reviews. The project has been developed and run under a committee of experienced and subject matter experts. It builds the capacity of schools by connecting them to various related government institutions/NGOs/organisations.

“Schools should not preserve the problems to which they are a solution.”

The National Policy for Children 1974, Government of India, declares that the children are the ‘supreme asset of the nation’.

We believe children’s empowerment can be the single most impactful step that can be taken to challenge and face the issue of CSA. It is the need of the hour.

We invite you to join hands with us to break the silence and fight against Child Abuse’s menace.

Regards!

Late Sh. Puran Chand

Mentor – Project CACA

Fr. Chairperson Project CACA Committee

Fr. General Secretary – COBSE – Council of Boards of School Education

Fr. Joint Commissioner (Academics) – KVS – Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan

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