We, the students of the centre for inclusive development, at Tezpur University, went to Sivasagar District of Assam, on 7th October 2018. This was for a field immersion programme, that UNICEF Assam organised, in collaboration with District Child and Adolescent Cell, (DCAC) Sivasagar.
The DCAC is a pilot project for adolescent empowerment. Their primary objectives are ensuring child protection and the rights of children and adolescents.
We were privileged to get this opportunity, which involved both office and fieldwork. Our main objectives for the field visits were:
While collecting data, we heard many interesting stories that happened in the field, which showed how children struggled for their rights. Some of these are narrated below:
Story 1: The first story was narrated by a girl; one of her best friends eloped with a guy when they were in class 8 and she was now facing many problems. She explained that the main reason for the elopement was because their parents consumed alcohol every day, and had fights which affected the children. She also told us about many child labour cases in her locality. Several students of her age were dropping out of school in search of manual work, in nearby areas.
It was clear that earning money was more important than going to school, and poverty seemed to be the cause. When their parents couldn’t fulfil their needs, they started to search for work. She also mentioned that there were cases of missing children and nobody knew where they had gone. Some people doubted that they might have become victims of trafficking. The girl expressed that she felt lucky to be learning about life skills from NGO members. She wants to be a teacher.
Story 2: In one case, a child’s father had suffered an accident while working in a factory, and, as a result, he lost his hand. Since the father was the only breadwinner in the family, and he couldn’t work anymore, the child had no choice but to find work and help the family, financially. We observed that the economic hardship of the family forces the child to take up odd jobs.
Story 3: In another story, a girl was pregnant by her brother, and she had found out only after seven months. The whole family was boycotted from the community after the case was out. The NGO workers were helping them as much as possible. The baby was given to the hospital after birth. The girl is not doing anything now, because, whenever she tries to step out of the house, she is humiliated by villagers.
Story 4: There was one incident in which a girl was raped by some of her friends; after this, she ran away to another place in shame. A member of a local NGO called her, and she explained what happened. At first, her father did not want to report the incident to the police, as he was afraid. He was thinking about the pride of the family and her future. He was worried about who would marry her if everyone knew she had been raped, but her mother showed bravery by reporting the case to the police.
Fortunately, the guilty were caught and sent to an observation home. The survivor got psychological treatment and counselling, and now, she is doing better.
Story 5: In yet another story about youngsters running away from home, a girl eloped with a boy, but he ended up leaving her. She returned home with her luggage. In the meantime, her family members became aware of her elopement.
When she returned home, she was beaten up by her father in front of a gathering of people. They blamed and scolded her for what she had done. The Child Protection Committee (CPC) members calmed the situation, and she was rescued from her father. She was given counselling about life skills and the adverse effects of elopement. She is now attending regular classes.
It needs to be mentioned that the NGO members face many problems while trying to stop child marriages. The Kiran NGO has successfully stopped 85 cases of child marriage until now. While doing this, they had to face humiliations, and many of them were threatened for stopping the marriages.
These are some of the stories that we found during our field visits. Through these stories, we realise that children suffer in many ways, in society. The DCAC team in Sivasagar has done outstanding work, with the help of NGOs and CPC members. They spread the importance of child rights, and it creates a voice for children and adolescents.
It would be a very fruitful step if this pilot project is applied in every district of Assam, and other states too. Society needs these kinds of cells to protect the future of the whole world.
*Feature image for representational purposes only.