The children who clean our homes, the ones who look after our children. The ones that walk the streets all day, waiting for the traffic light to turn red. The ones forced into marriage, the ones that bear offspring not much younger than themselves. The ones, who are neglected, abused and abandoned by their families. The ones with no support and no fight left. These are 40% of the children in our nation with no childhood. These are the children we see all around us.
We often see these kids and think, “I want to help them!” This moment of reflection soon turns into paralysis and helplessness- “How do I help them? Where do I start? Even if I reached out, there’s no way I could help all of them! Anyway, I don’t think I could make much of a difference.” With that, this moment of reflection passes and we carry on doing whatever it is that we were before we paused.
But there is a lot we can do…
What we don’t realize is that the issue of child safety is closer to us than we think. Maybe your child, niece or nephew has been bullied by peers or humiliated by a teacher and is afraid to break the silence? Maybe as a child you were a victim of abuse but were too scared to speak up? In such situations it is extremely daunting and nearly impossible for children to stand up for themselves- that is why we as adults need to step in. There isn’t any one expert way to protect children. Sometimes, it’s as simple as supporting domestic help to send their kids to school, or comforting a lost child and helping them find their family. Even that one-minute conversation you might have with the street kid tapping on your car window makes a bigger difference than you think. Child safety is not just the job of government or the police but in simple, everyday ways, all of ours.
#ActNow is a movement to make child protection everybody’s business, to encourage and build neighbourhoods where we’re all looking out for and taking action to keep children safe. Watch this video, #ActNow and be a part of the change.
Here’s the inspiring story of Roohi Mitra who joined the #ActNow movement and became an agent of change:
One morning, as 44-year old Roohi was driving her daughter to the station to go to college, she stopped at a traffic signal. Something caught her eye – a child lying in the fast lane of the road, head on the divider. Worried, she stepped out and went up to the child. Seeing them, some passers by came to help, one of whom was Roohi’s driving instructor. Together, they tried to rouse the child, relieved when they got a response.
3-year-old Titli was bewildered, unsure of her whereabouts. Roohi, her daughter and the three men decided to help her find her family, starting at a village adjoining the road.
In the car, Roohi’s daughter found a chocolate and offered it to Titli – winning immediate favour. “She was so cute, so full of life and energy once she had the chocolate. She could get anyone to respond to her,” adds Roohi.
At the village, they started making enquiries about Titli and her family but no one recognized her. By now, it was three hours since they’d found the child. They decided to reach out to the police. At the station, they met the constable and enquiries were initiated. The police were responsive, wanting to help Titli, and seeing to it that her immediate need for food was taken care of. However, the investigation revealed that Titli’s mother was the victim of a crime and had been killed, and her father couldn’t be located.
“I was growing more and more worried. Where would this little girl go? It made me more determined to see that she was safe,” says Roohi. At the station, Roohi continued to wait to speak to the Assistant Commissioner of Police, then accompanied the police to see if they could identify Titli’s school. She ensured that Titli had a meal, changed clothes and was comfortable.
In the evening, Roohi went home, entrusting Titli to the care of the women constables, and rkept eturning over the next few days to check up on her. She began discussing next steps with the police on where Titli could go. After a few days, Titli was sent to a well-established orphanage for children, where Roohi continues to follow up and visit her.
Roohi is an everyday citizen who saw a child in distress, stepped out of her comfort zone and reached out to keep the child safe. Roohi’s story showcases that child protection is far simpler than we perceive it to be and is something that all citizens can engage in.
*Names of children have been changed to protect their identity.