Protection is the right of every child. It is the collective responsibility of the family, the community and the State to create an environment that is protective towards children and is sensitive to their physical, mental and emotional needs. It is unfortunate, thus, that in the year 2012, the total number of missing children in Delhi was around 4086. The number of cases involving child abuse and kidnapping too are high and have registered an increase over the past year.
Recognizing this, AFD-Pratidhi empowered a group of adolescent girls in the Trilokpuri community of East Delhi who have been acting as agents of change and have been involved in campaigning for the rights of children and specifically raising awareness on child protection issues such as banning the PV test, kidnapping, child labor, trafficking, misbehavior by officials with the victims of sexual assault and changing the perception of the community towards the victims. As a result of their tireless campaigning, other members of the community including women, parents and youngsters have also begun lending active support to child protection issues. AFD-Pratidhi helps them gain a clearer understanding of child protection issues and provides strategic support to this group in order to increase their participation in local governance.
In the run up to the assembly elections in Delhi, a coordinated signature campaign was organized by The Delhi Child Rights Group across the city and approximately 40000 signatures were collected in an attempt to bring child protection issues in the manifestoes of political parties. As a member of this group, AFD-Pratidhi was responsible for the campaign in East Delhi. The Trilokpuri community contributed approximately 1000 signatures to this campaign. Following up on this, another campaign, Kahi Hum Bhul Na Jaye! was organized in order to discuss issues related to child protection and to mobilize the community to seek their local legislative candidates’ support for a Children’s Manifesto.
The campaign started in the first week of November, 2013 and continued till 2nd December 2013. Street plays were organized, meetings were conducted in various blocks of the community, door-to-door visits were made to create awareness and members of the community were asked to take a commitment from their candidates to actively address child protection issues. The campaign lasted around 25 days and volunteers interacted directly and indirectly with hundreds of members of the community.
While community members were sensitive to the issues related to child protection, the impending elections brought several other issues of the community into focus. Child protection, thus, featured low in the priority of community members as far as expectations from their electoral candidates went. It was noticed, however, that several members of the community actively distributed copies of children’s manifestos to their neighbors and candidates of their own accord. Activities such as these reinforce our belief that rather than act as a representative of the community, we are at our most helpful when we sensitize the community and empower them to take responsibility in solving their own problems. It was this belief that led us to encourage the community itself to petition their candidates rather than merely speak to the candidates on their behalf and we hope this belief will be vindicated in time when the community will no longer need assistance from us to deal with child protection issues.