Covid-19 lockdown has seen a spike in demand for child based sexual material, as reported by ICPF. ChildLine India reported an acceleration in SOS calls.
Thought leaders have expressed concern about the rising domestic violence as a direct result of the lockdown. In anticipation of such a breakdown, and in response to the changing environment requiring social distancing, Sakshi (regd. NGO, 1992) adapted its offline capacity-building model to an online delivery within two weeks, in order to continue working for the directive received from the Directorate of NSS, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, GOI, to prevent Gender-Based Violence with a focus on Child Sexual Abuse by skill-building 4 Million NSS Volunteers across 40,000 Colleges Pan-India.
During the period of over 3 months of lockdown, The Rakshin Project has reached out to over 100 colleges, and 10,000 Rakshins/ college students and their families in its journey of preventing child sexual abuse, in 39 cities spread over 10 states and 2 UTs. The colleges include Amar Singh College, Srinagar; Govt. Bilaspur PG Girls College, DP Vipra PG College and Raghavendra Rao Science College, Bilaspur; Govt. MLB Arts & Commerce College, Gwalior amongst many others.
The online sessions educate the young adults about the constitutional right to equality guaranteed to every citizen of India and equip them with tools to address the barriers of denial, silence, shame and stigma associated with child sexual abuse.
Ms. Smita Bharti, Executive Director of Sakshi says, “The rising anxieties during lockdown are exacerbating the potential of home-based violence. It was critical for us to step up our work. Adapting swiftly to online webinars, and direct interactions were the only recourse to continue the work because the COVID 19 situation is a long-drawn affair and children’s lives and well-being cannot be put on hold till we emerge from the Pandemic. This is an unprecedented and critical time in human history. While ‘stay home stay safe’ is the norm today, homes may not be safe for many of our children. It becomes important to strengthen the family unit and enrol them as a community of prevention to address the pandemic of child sexual abuse”.
“We have been equipping adults with the understanding, skill and information required to prevent abuse for over 2 decades. We have specifically worked for preventing child sexual abuse and sexual harassment at the workplace. It’s so important to build an understanding of the long-lasting impact of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Through The Rakshin Project, we are working with NSS volunteers, mostly from various colleges, who choose to become Champions of Change, to develop a preventive-proactive mindset, speak up against CSA and build a culture of accountability. The vision is to create a movement of Youth across the country who will exercise their roles and responsibilities as active and informed citizens”, adds Ms. Bharti.
The purpose of The Rakshin Project is to have One Informed, Skill Built Rakshin (Preventor) In Each HOME to Make Homes A Safe Space, Free from Child Sexual Abuse. Sakshi’s goal is for reaching at least one lakh families in the next six months to make homes truly a safe space.
Ar. Jitendra Menghani, Associate Professor & NSS Program Officer, Nirma University, Gujarat, says “An Informative presentation having a frank and open discussion on various topics related to POCSOA (2012), well-made videos and an interactive question-answer session towards the end of the seminar were highlights of this highly recommended webinar for our young students. The importance of creating a prohibitive mindset and other important aspects will increase the capacity of participants to prevent, prohibit and intervene in instances of sexual offences against children. We are greatly thankful to Sakshi (regd. NGO 1992) for spreading awareness about POCSOA (2012) through the NSS platform.”