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The Power Of Saying ‘No’ And ‘Stop’ To Prevent Child Abuse

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By Richa Shukla:

A recent report states that one out of every two children in India is sexually abused. News these days is flooded with child abuse cases. It is an alarming situation and we all need to act on it sooner than later. Child abuse has many forms: physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, and exploitation. Any of these that are potentially or actually harmful to a child’s health, survival, dignity and development can come under the purview of abuse.

Children were often dependent on an elder person for their requirements and were never considered as an individual with an energy to talk for themselves. Their needs and desires to do or not do a particular thing were considered as childish behaviour. Hence elders just neglected them, which resulted to be the root cause of the problem. Children continue to face abuse in some form or the other, at the hands of strangers or family members, without understanding the power vested in them to prevent this abuse.

This often leads them to restrict their discomfort to themselves because they are not made aware of the power of consent and the power of saying ‘No’.

First and foremost it is important for children to understand what child abuse is. Often, children may not report an incident as they are unaware of it. While the Constitution guarantees many rights to children, they are often not used for their benefits. They need to be empowered by the knowledge and sensitised about unsafe and unwanted touch. They need to be assured that they can express themselves freely. They should be taught that an unsafe touch is that which causes physical damage and an unwanted touch creates a sense of discomfort.

Saying ‘No’ to any act that seems unsafe or is causing discomfort is a basic right of every individual and it is important to educate children as well about this, right from the early years. It is common to witness adults kissing and hugging children, without realising their comfort to such touch. We tend to ignore it, but such ignorance is capable of proving fatal to the child as such incidents of uncomfortable touch or abuse can have grievous and long-lasting reflection on a child’s psychological, behavioural, physical and interpersonal well-being.

Here are some ways in which caregivers can educate children about the power of consent.

Seek And Give Permission: It is critical to educate children and tell them that they own their bodies and their consent is important for anyone to touch them, even if it is a close relative or a friend. It is equally important to teach children to seek permission, even from their friends, before touching them. This will enable them to learn and build the habit of taking and giving consent.

Know When To Say ‘No’ And ‘Stop’: It’s important to explain the child about the power of saying ‘No’ and ‘Stop’. Through a regular and friendly channel of communication, children can be encouraged to express themselves. In simple words and actions, parents need to apprise children that if anything or anyone that makes them feel uncomfortable or bad, they must firmly and clearly say ‘NO’ or ‘STOP’ to that person or to that situation if it arises. Sometimes explaining this to the child can be difficult and this is where parents can take help of educational videos available online, like the ‘I Heart Elmo’  segment of Galli Galli Sim Sim where Elmo learns about the power of consent from his dad.

Reporting To A Trusted Adult: Always maintain communication with kids so that they feel comfortable in sharing anything and can always report any incident that makes them uncomfortable to a trusted adult. This may be their parents, caregivers or educators. You can speak to the child and try to understand their problems and help them identify the trusted adult to whom they can speak to. Listening is important – pay attention to kids when they are reporting any such things, give them confidence and assure them that it is not their fault.

‘The Swimsuit Rule’: Establish this rule for your child which means that the body parts which are covered under a swimsuit are private and they should not be touched without one’s consent. Children should also be taught that only their parents and known caregivers can touch these parts, purely with the intention to keep them healthy. If anyone violates the swimsuit rule, the child must say “No” or “Stop”.

Childhood is the most blissful time of one’s life. This beautiful phase of a child’s life should not be shadowed by the fear of abuse. As parents and caregivers, it is our responsibility to increase our awareness on this issue and empower our kids to stand-up for themselves and say “No!”

Richa Shukla is a content expert at Sesame Workshop India

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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