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8 Hard-Hitting Stats Reveal How India Is Failing To Keep Its Children Safe

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STC logoEditor’s Note: With #TheInvisibles, Youth Ki Awaaz and Save the Children India have joined hands to advocate for the rights of children in street situations in India. Share your stories of what you learned while interacting with street children, what authorities can do to ensure their rights are met, and how we can together fight child labour. Add a post today!

14-year-old Kamal still remembers the time he worked 24-hour shifts in a roadside restaurant. Now back in school, and excelling as an athlete, he even managed to win a trophy for his district in a 400 metre race, making his parents, school and community proud. “Sometimes, I feel this is all a dream,” he says.

Kamal spent his childhood in a violent environment, replete with physical and verbal abuse. Steeped in poverty, his parents forced him into child labour. At the roadside eatery, he earned around Rs. 5,000 for two years.

In many ways, that Kamal now goes to school and is a favourite with school administration is nothing short of dream. But, it was only after intervention from Save The Children, a child rights organisation, that Kamal’s life improved and he was able to realise his rights and, eventually, his dreams.

For at least 700 million children in the world, who suffer deprivations “that undeniably undermines children’s rights”, this dreaming is a luxury, since their childhoods get destroyed due to a variety of factors. From poor health to conflict, child marriage or early pregnancy or, like in Kamal’s case, due to child labour and exclusion from education, there are a host of reasons that prevent children from enjoying their childhoods, a new report by Save the Children (STC) has revealed.

Sunil*, for instance, left the care of home and gave up the benefits of education when 14 to work as a ragpicker at the Ghazipur landfill in Delhi. He told YKA earlier this year that he had to leave home because there wasn’t even enough money to feed everybody at his home in Nandigram, West Bengal. “Those were days that I cannot even think about. There was a lot of tension at home,” he said.

According to Stolen Childhoods – End of Childhood Report 2017, India, the country where Kamal and Sunil were born and raised, ranks 116 among 172 countries on an index especially developed to measure how protected childhood in different countries is. The report is a first in what is going to be an annual exercise of ranking countries based on latest available data.

Street children in Agra, India
For at least 700 million street children in the world, who suffer deprivations , dreaming of a future is a luxury, since their childhoods get destroyed due to a variety of factors. For representation only.

The End of Childhood index uses 8 indicators to measure this. Indicators related to under-5 mortality rate, stunting, out-of-school children, child labour, child marriage, adolescent birth rate, population displacement due to conflict, and child homicide were used to generate a score to rank countries.

India has a ‘moderate’ under-5 mortality rate, with 47.7 children out of 1,000 children born dead before the age of 5 in 2015. Addressing the issue of stunting caused due to malnutrition is also something India has performed poorly in compared to other countries. About 39 percent children aged 0-59 months were stunted, according to the latest figures available for the period 2011-2016.

While Kamal was put to work by his poor parents, Papiya Khatoon in West Bengal was married off by her mother at the age of 14 since her mother was unable to care for her 3 daughters on her own. And while Khatoon now is working towards the cause of ending child marriages in India, she is one among the many girl children who are married before the legal age of marriage in India. 21.1 percent girls between the ages of 15-19 share Khatoon’s fate, and are married off before they are even adults, according to latest data, the report states. It is also another area where India’s performance is ‘moderate’ compared to other countries.

According to the rankings, the top 10 performing countries, where children live most in accordance with internationally-agreed standards, are all European, while the bottom 10 are all African. Norway, with a score of 985, leads the world in providing the best for its children. India with a score of 754 lies in the 3rd of a total of four categories of countries grouped on the basis of their ranking. Niger, with a score of 384, sits at the bottom of the list.

Seven of the ten countries at the bottom are from West and Central Africa. “Children in these countries are the least likely to fully experience childhood, a time that should be dedicated to emotional, social and physical development, as well as play. In these and many other countries around the world, children are robbed of significant portions of their childhoods,” the report says. However, the report adds that there have been signs of progress in these countries too.

The report also adds that there seems to be a correlation between a country’s wealth status and the state of its children. “The data collected for the End of Childhood Index document tremendous gaps between rich and poor countries and the urgent need to accelerate progress for the most vulnerable children,” it says.

In 2015, global leaders pledged to address this gap between rich and poor countries as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. They also committed to ending inequalities between rich and poor children. The STC report asks that these commitments “be upheld”. “Only then will we realize its potential to transform the lives of millions of children across the world, guaranteeing every last child the childhood they deserve,” the report observes.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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