Schools and educators are the frontline of child protection since they have the potential to teach both protective measures effectively and to a greater number of children than any other system, including parental instruction. Educators have a uniquse position to identify and observe those children who need help and protection. With abused children found in every school, early detection of abuse is crucial to minimize physical and emotional harm to the child. The educator’s role is not to investigate or verify the situation but rather, to set in motion the process of getting help for the child. The manifestation of child sexual abuse is exceedingly abstract and the suffering a child goes through is awfully passive, that it needs to be nipped in the bud.
With respect to the issue of human trafficking (for sexual exploitation), the project conducts a program called the ‘Life Skills’ program empowering young girls with life skills education to reduce their risk and vulnerability. The program enhances their abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour which will enable them to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. We can say that it is more or less like a training institute or a safe place. Safe spaces are about building relationships, getting support and learning new skills for girls who have poor livelihood alternatives and who are more liable to being trafficked for sexual exploitation and other gender based violence. In other words, it empowers the beneficiaries by building up a support system for them. Their capacities and talents will be tapped and enhanced, which will make them skilled workers and economically secured.
The beneficiaries receive education on tailoring, reading, baking and grooming. The program mainly targets women (young girls mainly adolescents) from the areas of Paltan Bazaar, Anjalee and Mawiong. By conducting a survey in these areas, the agency would be able to discover potential clients who are vulnerable, and who lack the resources to maintain a decent standard of living and are more likely to be trafficked for sexual exploitation. So far, in a very short span of time, the agency has been able to do a pilot program on life skills and it intends to reach out to more communities as a pilot project, to address the issues of gender based violence and its root causes.
Therefore, it can be rightly said that the agency believes in ‘Prevention is better than cure’. Instead of allocating resources on conducting rescue measures on victims of trafficking, it focuses on preventing the problem from occurring in the first place. Vulnerable women in their predicament due to poverty are sometimes left with no other livelihood alternative which consequently leads them to being deceived by brokers and are ultimately trapped in the vicious circle of trafficking and re-trafficking. Thus, the Life Skills program is a sure solution for the economically-threatened females in our society and potential victims of human trafficking. But prevention of the matter is not the only target of the agency. Rescued victims do face a problem in finding social adjustment with the community and in seeking a decent job, mainly because of the stigma that society has attached to them. The rescued victims should also be empowered economically to survive; otherwise they would again be trafficked. Thus, to break this vicious circle of trafficking and re-trafficking, an intervention has to be implemented. Therefore, with the Life Skills program, the rescued victims will be able to stand on their own feet and lead a decent standard of living.
To quote Shakespeare, “All the world is a stage”-this implies that we all have a role to play in this enormous world, be it at home, at work, at school or any other institution but most importantly as members of the society. We, as a society are also the stakeholders of children. It is one thing to hear about a social issue but it is another thing to concede it. Child sexual abuse is not a recent crime and the rate at which it is progressing is evident enough that the silence that surrounds it should be broken.
A happy childhood is the basic right of a child and it is the most imperative stage in life, but the realism is that children are the most defenseless members of our society. In view of that, they are abused because of their vulnerability and in terms of incestuous abuse, because of their constant availability. Hence, it is never the child’s fault. They should be equipped with skills on how to keep their bodies safe and adults should be enlightened on how to handle a case of abuse.
Student social workers from Martin Luther Christian University, during their internship at Faith Foundation, collected newspaper clippings on sexual abuse or rape cases, committed in Meghalaya, from the months of January to October 2013, extracted from “The Shillong Times” and “U Nongsain Hima”. After analyzing only the cases committed on minors, the student social workers come up with an approximate statistical data, whereby the approximate number of reported cases is 103; 6 under incestuous rape and 5 under abduction and rape. The victims also include the differently-abled children.
The law makers have done their part in protecting children with the implementation of the ‘Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012’ which prohibits all the constituents of child sexual abuse including provision of special courts (child friendly courts) for the victims. So now, it is our turn as a community to do our jobs in protecting children as their trusted stakeholders.
The founders of Faith Foundation are attempting to cover the gaps in the services addressing these four social issues: substance abuse and trafficking in women, child sexual abuse and HIV-AIDS. After witnessing certain loop-holes in the other systems or services, the four founders marched forward with a vision in their minds and faith in their hearts, to alleviate and address the most ignored aspects of these four issues, with a goal to ‘restore-reconnect-empower freedom’ to the vulnerable, defenseless and ignored members of our society.