A battle worth fighting
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a real problem in many countries in the world, and even in India, the numbers have been alarming. In recent times, due to awareness, more information, and accessible avenues to raise an alarm, more cases are now coming to light. The unfortunate reality is, however, that reported cases are still far lower than the actual number of CSA cases that may exist in the country today. Social taboo, fear of retribution, and sometimes even social stratification continue to play major roles in the lack of reporting that we see in the country. The most chilling fact is that 50% of CSA crimes are committed by people known to the child.
The bottom line is simple: children deserve to be protected and safeguarded.
It is with this objective that Project Masoom was undertaken as a key initiative by CII’s Young Indians (Yi), in 2015 taking ahead the Yi maxim of “We Can! We Will!”. Masoom in Hindi means innocence. That’s what this project is all about. Preserving and protecting the innocence of children.
The singular aim is to educate Indian society – children, parents, teachers and caregivers, to the massive problem at hand. For such a truly heinous act to be wiped out, we needed collective action to make a difference.
Who are you talking to and how are you speaking to them?
Yi’s Project Masoom has already identified that it is crucial that children, and all of their support systems be equally called in to participate in the conversation around CSA. This is to be achieved by fulfilling certain core objectives including:
|Empowering Children||Enabling Caregivers||Strengthening Schools||Engaging Administration|
|Through structured sensitization workshops and awareness sessions||Creating attentive caregivers who can identify hidden signs of CSA||Knowledge sharing and capacity building to develop safe environments||Discussion and engagement to advocate policy reforms|
As we initiated our works, we also realised that in a country as diverse as India, we must be truly inclusive – our medium, as well as our message must be equally accessible. True inclusion comes from actually involving every person possible. This led us to take a look at how we delivered our messages and we are constantly evolving to ensure maximum impact.
We are working with Braille packs, and developing vernacular translation of our content to drive rural reach. Yi is also developing session videos for those with hearing impairments in our bid to bridge awareness and accessibility. In fact, during the pandemic, we’ve doubled down on our efforts to create the educational videos and content we need, so we can roll it out as soon as it’s safe. Masoom work is thus inclusive not only in terms of the people we are trying to educate, but also in terms of the many forms we manifest our content into.
We also work hard to bring diverse voices into the conversation. The Masoom Summit conducted in November 2020 was one such example. We engaged stakeholders across demographics; including sessions that spoke to youth and encouraged child participation. The universality of the problem was also highlighted with participation from over 7 countries all calling for a collaborative action to end CSA.
What have we learnt?
There is a lot of hidden danger lurking in the world. Especially when it comes to children, attackers use fear and guilt to keep their actions hidden. It may seem like the most natural thing to yell out or ask for help, but the trauma that CSA causes is unimaginable. And there’s always the element of taboo that society still holds on to.
But children are strong. And they are determined. The anger we have seen at stories of attack in the recent past is real, and ever-growing. With more education, more support, more voices raised, there will be massive change.
What’s worked for us to start and drive conversations is primarily, the importance of talking to children. It is easy to create fear in a young mind, but it is our aim to create awareness, and empower them to rise above fear and raise their voices.
Where are we headed?
As an organization, Yi is moving progressively forward from Awareness to Action to Advocacy. To deliver success, we engage with government, administration, and organizations across spheres. We have realized the value of a multi-partner approach to grow the sphere of influence. Expanding activities from rural to district, and from state to centre is crucial to large scale, lasting impact. We also value the opportunity to share our experiences internationally and learn from others’ successes and initiatives to address this global issue through being a member of the WeProtect Global Alliance.
What started as an initiative by an individual a few years ago has turned into a massive movement with more than 2800 activities, impacting millions of lives. In this entire experience what resonates is that fact that all of us, as individuals, as society, as organisations whatever role we occupy, have to step up. Each one can and must contribute towards eliminating this evil.
Create awareness, take actionable steps, or advocate child protection, do whatever you can, but do #PlayYourPart.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of WePROTECT Global Alliance or any of its members.