There's a 50% chance that the person reading this has experienced or
witnessed some form of child abuse. That is the extent of this issue.
Eliminating this issue is our cause.
Understanding Child Abuse
The World Health Organisation defines Child Abuse as a form of abuse that is potentially or actually harmful to a child’s health, survival, dignity and development. Child Abuse has many forms: physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, and exploitation.
Child abuse and violence can affect the normal development of a child impairing her mental, physical and social being. In extreme cases abuse of a child, it can result in death.
Childline 1098 mentions the following as forms of Child Abuse:
- Physical abuse is when a child has been physically harmed due to some interaction or lack of interaction by another person, which could have been prevented by any person in a position of responsibility, trust or power.
- Emotional abuse can be seen as a failure to provide a supportive environment and primary attachment figure for a child so that they may develop a full and healthy range of emotional abilities. Emotional abuse is also the act of causing harm to a child’s development, when they could have been within reasonable control of a person responsible for the child. Examples of these acts are restricting movement, threatening, scaring, discriminating, ridiculing, belittling, etc. In India a rising concern is the pressure children feel to perform well in school and college examinations, which can be seen as a form of emotional stress and abuse.
- Sexual abuse is engaging a child in any sexual activity that he/she does not understand or cannot give informed consent for or is not physically, mentally or emotionally prepared for. Abuse can be conducted by an adult or another child who is developmentally superior to the victim. This includes using a child for pornography, sexual materials, prostitution and unlawful sexual practises. Read more on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)
- Neglect or negligent treatment is purposeful omission of some or all developmental needs of the child by a caregiver with the intention of harming the child. This includes the failure of protecting the child from a harmful situation or environment when feasible.
- Exploitation can be commercial or otherwise, where by the child is used for some form of labour, or other activity that is beneficial for others. Example: child labour or child prostitution.
According to WHO, 150 million girls under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual abuse involving physical contact. Most of these girls are victims of family members or other people residing in or visiting the child’s family home.
The Indian Government found 53.22% children at the end of one or more forms of sexual abuse that includes severe and other forms. A study of the children reporting sexual abuse indicated that abuse starts around the age of 5 and peaks at the of 12 – 15, make the adolescents most vulnerable.
75% cases of Child Sexual Abuse go unreported.
In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) released a study report on child abuse. The report discusses incidence of child abuse nationwide. The study of the MWCD found a wide spread incidence of child abuse. Children between the ages of 5-12 are at the highest risk for abuse and exploitation. The study found that 69% of children reported to have been physically abused. Out of these 54.68% were boys. 52.91% of boys and 47.09 % of girls reported having been abused in their family environment. Of the children who were abused in family situations 88.6% were abused by their parents. Every two out of three school children reported facing corporal punishment. In juvenile justice institutions 70.21 % of children in conflict with law and 52.86% of children in need of care and protection reported having been physically abused. With regard to child labour 50.2% of children work all seven days of the week. 81.16% of the girl child labourers work in domestic households, while 84% of the boy child labourers worked in tea stalls or kiosks. 65.99 % of boys and 67.92% of girls living on the street reported being physically abused by their family members and other people.
As important as it is to make our children aware of how to protect themselves from abuse, the adults, equally importantly, need to recognise the urgency of taking action. Child Abuse, often, is hidden under deep layers of ‘family honour’, shame and survivor bashing. Admitting, that Child Abuse and Child Sexual Abuse exist, is the first step towards addressing it. You can spread the awareness on the issue in your immediate circle and urge authorities (schools, public service institutions, child care institutions, shelter homes for children, etc.). We need to interact with our children to help hasten the awareness about this issue, to support the organisations fighting against child abuse and open a dialogue about child abuse, especially Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). Following links will help you take action at an individual level and help understand the need for urgency surrounding the issue.
Click on the following to know more:
- How to spot child abuse?
- Questions to ask your child when they return from school
- How to talk to a child, you suspect, is suffering from abuse?
- Understanding POCSO: Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012
- Ensuring Policy Safeguards: How schools can minimise risk of child sexual abuse
Every effort matters.
The Foundation of Protsahan
Child Abuse exists, no matter how much we deny it as a society or as individuals. Whether physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, or exploitation, the issue of child abuse continues to be a daunting challenge for India mostly because of the apathy surrounding it. In most cases, the victims choose to remain silent, firstly because they do not even realize that what they are going through constitutes child abuse, and secondly, because they fear backlash from society and authorities in some form. Their silence often encourages the abusers to continue the cycle of abuse with other victims without the fear of getting caught and being brought to justice by the law.
While efforts continue to change the status quo, the underserved communities remain largely untouched due to prevalence of deep rooted prejudices that such fate is inevitable for children living in the slums. Over the past decade of working in these neighborhoods, Protsahan has learned that the families often value their “respect” in the neighborhood above the safety of their child, and try to resolve any case of child abuse, even child sexual abuse behind closed doors. On most occasions, the children are blamed for encouraging the abuser, or not believed at all when the abusers are from within the family. There have been cases where the sons abuse their younger sisters and the entire family, including mothers side with them since he is or will be the bread winner for the family. The girls are threatened and coerced not to reveal information about the incident to anyone for the sake of family’s “respect”. To avoid any such further such incident, the girl is not allowed to go to school and/or is married.
In cases, where the mother does decide to stand and fight for her daughter, she is threatened or shunned by the entire family. Since she is a dependent, there is not much she can do without her family’s support. In cases where fathers step out to help too, the girl is shunned by the community as “impure”. Yet still if the family endures and continues to fight, the police do not offer much support, despite the presence of strict laws against child abuse that are in favour of minors. All of this while the child herself is put through an internal trauma that has scarred her for life, and begins to blame herself for telling the truth, for being scared to say no, and yet having to go through such a brutal theft of her innocence, just because she is a girl. She continues to endure in an environment that does not offer any guidance or support.
Protsahan India Foundation hopes to empower children and stakeholders to create a future where children and young adolescents at risk of abuse find an environment conducive to their safety and growth.
While on a film shoot in 2010, our founder Sonal Kapoor happened to meet a young woman who had six daughters and was pregnant with her 7th child. On being asked about her circumstances, the woman narrated in a matter-of-fact way that she was ready to strangle her newborn if it happened to be a girl again. She also spoke of sending her 8 year old daughter to work at a brothel so that she could feed the rest of her family. Sonal was so shocked that within the hour, the idea of starting a unique creative school had started taking shape. Within 3 weeks, after a small feasibility study in the area, Protsahan started as a one room creative arts and design school in one of the darkest slums of the country, in the heart of the capital city New Delhi. These slums are described by the best newspapers of the country as ‘ghettoes’.
After about four months, Sonal quit her corporate job and ventured into an altogether different world where her creative genius was no longer used to make money for corporations, but was used to gradually revolutionise the education delivery mechanism for children at the bottom of the social pyramid. She was finally able to use all the creativity that she previously used in the advertising and communications industry for something more profoundly important. Sonal went door to door in the urban slums of Uttam Nagar in West Delhi, the same place where she had met the mother who was sending her 8 year old to a brothel, and asked parents to send their daughters to Protsahan. She started experimenting with the innovative approaches of Design, Art, Digital Stories, Photography, Technology & Cinema (the 5 pillars of creativity model) to give young adolescent girls the power to break the extreme cycle of poverty and fight abuse through creativity. Filmmaking, Photography and Madhubani art work grew in popularity in areas which were rubbished as ‘dark spaces’ by most.
Since then, Protsahan has rescued and successfully mainstreamed 800 girls into formal schools, rescued 28 girls from forced early marriage, educated more than 19,800 girls on child rights, prevention of sexual abuse and menstrual hygiene, and created powerful media on social issues like child marriage, access to toilets, and gender violence. Our various projects and programs have reached out to more than 11,000 young girls and boys in a ‘hub and spokes’ model.
Since Protsahan was established in 2010 as an ‘after-school program’ for at-risk adolescent girls, it’s been an exciting and rewarding journey in terms of programs and projects executed, milestones achieved, and lives transformed. We’ve learned a few lessons, and implemented them successfully. Our Board of Advisors, comprising of some very prominent professionals from diverse backgrounds, sectors and experience, was constituted and became functional in early 2017. We’ve improved our processes over the years, and empowered at-risk adolescent girls to take charge of their future with life skills and a strong foundation of education through therapeutic art.
The years gone by brought many awards and honors for Protsahan, along with numerous partnerships and opportunities for us to share our understanding of how to bring a lasting change in a child’s life by healing and empowering her through arts. Some of the notable opportunities were at Harvard University, Chicago University, Stanford University, and Microsoft Office in Chicago.
Our small, but highly motivated and extremely dedicated team of staff and volunteers works tirelessly to add dignity and bring a ray of happiness to the lives of adolescent girls facing unprecedented risks in everyday life.
Our focus on ‘Creative Education’ and ‘Skill Development’ are the fundamental principles in all our work. Our efforts allow us to successfully rescue 800 girls and mainstream them into formal schools. We’ve also rescued 28 girls from forced early marriage, and trained another 200 in entrepreneurial life skills. 11,000 girls have created powerful media on social issues that matter to them like child marriage, access to toilets, and gender violence through short films, photography, theater, and puppet shows. Our flagship programs ‘Project Educare’, ’Project Innocence’, and ‘Project Lightbulb’ have been extremely successful in raising awareness on child rights, prevention of child sexual abuse, and menstrual hygiene among 19,800 girls.
Our programs have thrived under the most strenuous circumstances due to the steadfast dedication of our staff and volunteers, and an unfettered support from our donors and corporate sponsors from public and private sectors. We are extremely thankful for the continued support we get from each individual and organization associated with us who enable us to bring magic to the lives to at-risk adolescent girls, and help us make the world a better place.
Protsahan India Foundation