by Sanjana Das, Technical Specialist, ChildFund India
To celebrate the New Year, we’re taking you on a tour of all 31 countries where ChildFund works. Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’ll make a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. So whether you’re helping ChildFund build playgrounds in Afghanistan, provide drought aid in Kenya and Ethiopia or sponsoring a child in the United States, we hope you’ll make new discoveries about our work around the globe.
In India, the reality of violence against children is often not known or spoken about. Why? Is it because children are afraid to talk about or report violence because they consider it “normal” adult behavior or because they belong to a particular caste, class or gender? Perhaps it’s because they are children, and are more often than not unheard.
The fact is violence against children is as real as they are. It takes place everywhere – right within the domains of their families, schools, institutions, workplaces and communities. The abuse of power results in violence against children. It affects their overall well-being and hinders their normal developmental process. Ultimately, it takes away their childhood and prevents them from growing into healthy adults.
To create a collaborative dialogue around questions that matter to children, ChildFund India initiated a 60-day process of intense listening to children across the country, inviting them to present their ideas, views, aspirations and fears. Twenty-eight ChildFund India staff members and partners were trained on interacting with children and capturing their voices using World Café and Appreciative Enquiry processes. They hosted 60 children’s cafés in their area, with 1,789 children participating from nine states in India: Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
We listened to children … to their spoken and unspoken words. We let them express themselves in various ways. They are hurt, humiliated, isolated and ignored. They are unable to trust, since they are harmed by parents, family, peers and relatives, teachers and community. They have suffered physical violence and psychological violence including utter neglect, discrimination, humiliation and maltreatment, which has a damaging impact on their overall well-being. Many circumstances, depending upon the severity of the violence, have left them scarred for a lifetime.
However, having experienced deprivation, exclusion and vulnerability, it does not deter children from appreciating what they have: their families, their homes, their friends, their teachers, their schools, their community and the gift of life itself.