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‘Suraksha Aur Sammaan’ transforms child safety | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey | #hacking | #aihp

HYDERABAD:  Earlier I used to think that my body belonged to my parents and grandparents. Now I know my body belongs to only me,” says 11-year-old Haritha, a student at a government primary school in Hyderabad. Thanks to the ‘Suraksha Aur Sammaan’ (Safety and Respect) classes of the Learning Space Foundation which not only educate children about safe and unsafe touch but also combat the growing epidemic of child sexual abuse by empowering both kids and adults through awareness, education and stigma reduction Recently, during the Child Safety Week from November 14 to 20 in government schools in Shankarpally mandal, Rangareddy district, the foundation, sensitised more than 2,000 students, on safeguarding themselves from sexual assaults, the significance of the POCSO Act for children’s safety, and crucial lessons on internet safety.

The founder, Kaumudi Nagaraju, along with other members of the foundation and 40 engineering students from Chaitanya Bharathi Institute of Technology’s service- oriented club, Chaitanya Spandana collaborated for this cause. Udayashree, a headmistress of a local boys’ primary school co-ordinated the team with other schools in the mandal. Started in 2014 by Kaumudi, an engineer with more than 23 years of experience in the IT industry in India and US and academic institutions like III THyderabad, the foundation was working towards improving learning abilities of children in shelter homes and government schools in Hyderabad and inculcating interest in STEM fields.

“A girl from one of the schools who took part in the training was being sexually abused by her own grandfather,” Kaumudi said speaking to TNIE. When studied it was understood that services were only available after a child was abused. Also, the stigma around the issue makes the survivors suffer in silence and the perpetrators take advantage of it. As part of our Suraksha Aur Sammaan project, the foundation works with primary and high school students by making personal safety skills curriculum a part of their time table.

over good touch and bad touch and safeguarding themselves from sexual assaults

This is a five-month project where we teach children how to identify, avoid and disclose sexual abuse and also provide self-defence training to children. Mobilising more like-minded people, the foundation started taking workshops in various schools when suddenly the Covid- 19 pandemic occurred.

Having no schools, children were locked in their homes. However, more calls were being received by the Child helpline complaining about abuse. “As abuse is a power dynamic where a more powerful person forces themselves upon a less powerful person, children being less powerful, educating them to protect themselves is really not enough. As adults are legally and morally responsible for the health and safety of the children, the responsibility of prevention and protection is the responsibility of adults,” Kaumudi said. The foundation then refined their mission to include adult education, launching another programme Sreyobhilashi.

Through various programmes and campaigns to prevent CSA, the foundation reached out to 21,000 children and 34,000 adults. from different states, including Telangana, AP, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Kerala. Through Sreyobhilaashi, training is provided to parents and other caring adults, teachers, police personnel, hostel wardens, people working in childcare homes and other NGOs. This is a six-hour programme with topics including like child rights, myths around child sexual abuse, types of child sexual abuse, grooming behaviours, short and long-term impacts, personal safety rule, how to teach children about body safety in an age-appropriate manner, understanding the support system, handling disclosures and recognising and reporting sexual abuse.

“While we were working with schools, another incident came to light. Unaware of the child marriage act and POCSO, a boy married a minor girl against elders’ wish and landed in jail,” Kaumudi said. Most of these children being first generation learners, have little knowledge about law and how their actions and decisions can destroy their dignity and future. So, she decided to create awareness among adolescents about laws related to them. The foundation also works on menstrual hygiene management, supporting education and raising awareness on mental health and safety of women. They conduct various awareness sessions, provide support with infrastructure and basic needs to the less privileged.

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