I take the local train to go to work every day. The most heart-breaking part of my trip is Mahim Junction. In this particular area, every day I see half naked kids sorting through garbage. They do hazardous work to help their families survive poverty. They work when they should be in school. They work when they should be playing. They work in the scorching sun of Mumbai, and they will probably work as much during the monsoon.
An ILO 2015 report says “there are 16.7 million (5-17 year old) children in child labour in South Asia, (…), and of these 10.3 million are in the 5-14 year age range. The young, 5-11 year-old children, make up about one-fifth of all child labourers in South Asia.”
According to the same report, at 5.8 million children, India has the highest rate of child labour in South Asia.
And this is not India’s only problem. I do not want to fill your head with statistics but I strongly believe these are important:
- 1 out of 3 children face bullying in Indian schools. 1 in 2 children say that they have experienced emotional abuse; 65% experience corporal punishment. More than 50% of the children using the Internet were either threatened or harassed online. By the age of 15, 51% of girls have dropped out of school.
- Child migrants are estimated at approximately 15 million. Over 3.25 lakh children went missing between 2011 and 2014, at an average of nearly 1-lakh children going missing every year. ~1.2 million children were trafficking victims, prostituted & enslaved throughout the country, including via child sex tourism.
- Around 53% of children report having faced a form of sexual abuse. Of this number, more than half are boys.
- India alone accounts for one third of the child brides’ global total. 22.5% of girls aged 15-to-19 face physical or sexual violence, a majority of it within their own homes.
Do you feel powerless reading this? Most of us do. I feel powerless every day in Mumbai.
At Aangan, we are trying to empower people to act when they see a child in distress. With a focus on “Making schools safer”, “Saying No to child labour” and “Being alert to child sexual abuse”, the child protection specialists at Aangan have put together a list of actions normal people can take when they see a child in distress. These are simple things, simple things that can change the story of a child.
Here are some examples from the Aangan website:
- “Making schools safer” – Check that your child’s school has a Child Protection Policy. It’s a minimum standard to ensure a safe environment and that protective systems are in place to address issues like harsh punishments, bullying, physical and sexual abuse and harassment of all kinds.
- “Saying No to child labour” – Start at home – how old are the people who work for you? Go a step further – talk to your family, your friends, your neighbours, and your housing society. Tell them to say NO to child labour too.
- “Being alert to child sexual abuse” – Pay attention to your child and his or her responses to the people around. Don’t make reporting it the child’s work. Everyone who has contact with children must be alert to and must respond to the cues children send.
Child protection is not just the government’s business, or something that NGOs do because they are NGOs. India is not the only place on earth where really bad things happen to children. So let’s open our eyes, look around and take action.
Learn more about what you can do if you see a child in distress at http://aanganindia.org/actnow
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