It gives us great pleasure to present you the Annual Report. 2016-17 was a critical year for Leher- rewarding and humbling; three years into initiating our field lab in Madhubani, Bihar, one of India’s 200 backward districts, it has been rewarding to see the many unchartered directions we have taken bear fruition and our community preventive programme take shape. It has been humbling to see communities come together for children. And it has reaffirmed our unwavering commitment to the participation of children and communities in keeping children safe.
At Leher we believe that violence against children can be prevented. It is instinctive to most people to want to protect children. Across programs Leher looks at ways to harness this instinct; to bring the strengths of family, community, informal social protection networks together with the formal systems of child protection and public social protection. We feel an active focus on prevention reduces the immediate burden on child protection services, in terms of human resources and the cost of delivery, and expands the reach of services.
This year Leher brought out Together for children: a community’s journey a midline report of our work of three years in communities. The findings of the report indicate that communities, families, youth and children themselves, are interested in coming together to keep children safe, out of work, in school, safe from child marriage, trafficking, and that they can achieve results. Our learning has been that communities take time; they gradually garner the will to question the status quo and change for their children. Children play a key role in driving change as they motivate adults to change. One of our biggest wins, we believe has been our investment in the community process, in giving time to communities to understand how to identify problems, break them down, take collective decisions, plan action and follow up.
Leher’s work on promoting a preventive approach to child protection has resulted in multiple collaborations and taken it into very diverse settings. In the current year Leher collaborated with UNICEF in the Kashmir Valley around a pilot program on Child Friendly Spaces to support children and young people’s need for peaceful non-political interventions to cope with violence around them; in Leh Leher supported the deliberations on corporal punishment in institutions such as monasteries and Gompas, to build discourse around safety and protection of children and in Rajouri provided technical
support to the local partner to conduct a baseline study on child protection and using the evidence create a District Child protection Plan for Rajouri. We visited Odisha to understand the conditions of children in Ashram Schools and as technical partner to the Tata Trust made recommendations on possible intervention areas to keeping children safe and protected in Ashram schools.
A key goal of Leher is also to build a culture in society that prioritizes the safety and protection of children. To address some of the deeply entrenched norms and traditions that foster violence and abuse of children Leher works on short, simple, visual messaging via the social media platform, to engage audiences that have the capacity to spread the message and demand change, including young people, photographers, writers, visual activists, parents, families and statutory bodies who can shape opinions and create change. This year our social media campaigns focused on issues such as – gender, child labour, sports and play, and climate change amongst others. Leher launched Little Humans (inspired by Humans of New York) a volunteer-based, collaborative project as a standalone campaign with the belief that sometimes the littlest people have the biggest stories to tell. Leher’s Everyday childhood an instagram based curated visual project has garnered interest and brought in motion many interesting collaborations with photographers, writers, illustrators and visual storytellers.
We remain a small team, but undoubtedly hardworking and passionate and are blessed to work with partners who support us and help us learn. We take this opportunity to thank all Leher friends-donors, advisors, supporters and partners as we move on to the next year with optimism in our vision of caring families, alert communities and responsive governments towards keeping every child safe.
In 2014, Leher in partnership with Sarvo Prayas Santhan, a grassroots organization, initiated a 5 year pilot child protection community owned initiative focused on prevention and community participation, covering 3 blocks and 63 villages in the district of Madhubani in Bihar. Over this 5-year period, Leher is incubating a program to equip communities with awareness, understanding of their situation, skills to mobilize themselves, demand and monitor child protection. The program draws children, families, and duty bearers together, to share responsibility for making communities capable, self – sufficient, safe spaces in which childhood thrives. The key strategy continues to be - to keep the program lean, avoid any monetary or incentives in kind to communities, but to support them find and obtain sustainable sources of support, from within and locally from the administration.
The purpose of this pilot is to contribute learning and to distill a cost-able, manage-able model, which can be funded and institutionalized in partnership with government and civil society.
STATUS & PROGRAM ACTIVITIES (2016-17)
- Corporal punishment hasn’t stopped all together but it has reduced;
- Feticide which was two years ago not even spoken about, today has been identified as an issue in 20/27 villages as a practice;
- The midline has helped identify other children in the village who need support in acquiring their disability certificate;
- Domestic abuse and its negative effect on the child especially in pursuing studies was recognized as an issue in 19/27 villages
- Some of the additional issues that were identified during this process – sexual harassment, bullying, child impacted by domestic violence, elope, impact and exposure to media, gambling, parenting issues, non inclusion of children in decision making etc.
TOGETHER WITH CHILDREN: A COMMUNITY'S JOURNEY
Leher published Together for children: a community’s journey (December 2016), a report of its work in communities of three years.
The findings of the report indicate that families, leaders, youth and children themselves, are interested in coming together to keep children safe, out of work, in school, safe from child marriage, trafficking, and that they can achieve results. The cases of violence against children, which communities now address are indicative of a gradual change in attitude behavior change.
DEVELOPING A SOFTWARE
Data on child protection has always been a challenge; it is mostly presented in the form of numbers, statistics, percentages, etc. Numbers do not always tell the entire story. They cannot always present the journey of a community towards social change. We have been trying to address this practice of limiting the picture on child protection to mere numbers from our early days with easy available tools such as excel that was available to us but as our interventions widened both in depth and reach we have begun exploring software to capture qualitative and quantitative data from the field. This would help in quick data collation and trend analysis which would help the CPCs in evidence building and advocacy process. The ultimate goal is to convert it to an application that would document real time data that would be captured by members of the community themselves on their mobile phones
The focus this year has been towards consolidating the advocacy mandate at the block and district level and planning phase out in 2 years; advocacy at the state government level for strengthening of child protection system; capacity building of youth; a light touch in the additional nine villages expanded to and to compare process and inputs made in the existing 27 in order to distill the time taken to set up a alert, responsive Child Protection Committee and Children's Group.
Leher’s work on promoting a preventive approach to child protection has resulted in multiple collaborations such as UNICEF, Tata Trust, State Governments, local civil society organisations and taken it into very diverse settings, which include remote Ladakh, conflict ridden Badgam and Srinagar in the Kashmir valley, border lying Rajouri in Jammu, flood ridden and almost forgotten Morigaon in Assam, into residential schools in tribal districts of Orissa, along with it’s longitudinal pilot preventive program in Madhubani, in Bihar which is one of India’s 200 most backward district.
UNICEF AND PARTNER NGO'S IN JAMMU & KASHMIR:
Leher has been working as a knowledge partner to UNICEF almost since they began their work in Jammu and Kashmir three years ago, strengthening education and building the nascent child protction system in the State. In this year Leher has worked with and trained resource organisations in the State to undertake participatory baseline child protection study in three districts across very diverse regions of the State. Periodically Leher has been called upon to facilitate dialogue and build capacity of different stakeholders on child protection.
KASHMIR: Sensitive to the issues of the region and recognising that children & young people need peaceful non-political interventions to cope with violence around them, UNICEF in concurrence with the state Government and in collaboration with civil society organizations, designed and piloted the Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) as one among a range of programmatic approaches that support children’s well being in emergencies. Leher worked with UNICEF as a knowledge partner, to provide technical support to implementing agencies, and to document as a good practice, the pilot initiative of safe spaces for children in communities, with the objective of creating evidence, flagging challenges and making programmatic recommendations which would help UNICEF and partners advocate recognition of CFS as a critical and necessary intervention for children in times of conflict.
Leher facilitated deliberations and discussion on regional level Civil Society Alliance for promotion of child rights amongst stakeholders in the Leh region. Leher also joined as resource to support the capacity building workshop on corporal punishment for the monks in the Gompas, while respecting the revered status of the monasteries and Gompas among the people of Ladakh, to build the discourse around safety and protection of children in them .
RAJOURI: Leher capacity built UNICEF’s partner in Rajouri to conduct the baseline study , prepared the Child Protection District Need Assessment and worked with the organisation to create an evidence based Child Protection Plan for the district of Rajouri.
MANUAL FOR CARE GIVERS IN RESPECT OF ADDRESSING LIVING CONDITIONS, IN CUSTODIAL SETTINGS FOR CHILDREN IN CONFLICT WITH LAW
A recent judgement from the Supreme Court of India, on matters related to prison reform instructed the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), to develop a manual for care givers of custodial care settings for child in conflict with law, providing guidance on living conditions and quality care. Leher was appointed as the technical agency to draft the manual for an interdepartmental Committee constituted by the MWCD towards preparation for the same.
INTERVENTION STRATEGY DESIGN FOR THE TATA TRUSTS IN ASHRAM SCHOOLS FOR TRIBAL CHILDREN IN ODISHA The Tata Trust amongst India's oldest, non-sectarian philanthropic organizations continues to play a pioneering role to make a real difference to communities. The Trust, has been concerned about the conditions of children in Ashram Schools across India following numerous reports, of such facilities being overcrowded, security issues, staff vacancies, shortage in monitoring officials, lack of data and above all many child protection violations and was keen to make an intervention. Leher collaborated with the Trust as a technical partner to do a rapid status assessment and make strategy recommendations on possible intervention areas that could be initiated by the Trust for the tribal children of Odisha.
CASE INTERVENTION PRACTICE
Combining our approach of promoting prevention and our goal of strengthened child protection systems in the country, Leher has begun a small case-work practice. As ad-hoc social workers we work with children and their families and assist them with straddling the child protection system. We work with both children who are victims and those who commit offences. The objective is to assist families while push the system to function more effectively. We document the cases in detail to contribute towards practice and evidence building for collaborative advocacy efforts towards system strengthening and law amendment. Leher is currently working closely on 3 cases which include issues of – child sexual abuse, substance abuse and juvenile justice.
DOCUMENTATION AND SKILL BUILDING WORKSHOP, UNICEF IN COLLABORATION WITH DEPARTMENT OF WOMEN & CHILD DEVELOPMENT, GWALIO, MADHYA PRADESH UNICEF has been working towards strengthening of child protection systems in the State of Madhya Pradesh. As the implementation of Integrated Child Protection Scheme and Juvenile Justice Act is gathering pace, a lot of work is being done by frontline child protection workers at the district level. In the absence of knowledge of documentation among frontline child protection workers, a vast resource of learnings and challenges from the interventions and the range of activities undertaken remain inaccessible. Leher was invited as resource to design and conduct a three day workshop on strengthening the skills and capacities of front-line child protection workers from districts in Gwalior and Chambal divisions of Madhya Pradesh.
PROMOTION OF THE ROLE OF FAMILIES & COMMUNITIES IN PREVENTION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN IN BHUTAN Subsequent to the release of Bhutan’s Violence Against Children Study, Leher was invited as a panelist where it shared the role of families, communities and young people in preventing violence against children based on its pilot intervention in Madhuabni, Bihar
FRAMES FROM THE FIELD
Every visit to the field is like walking a new, unknown path. Unpredictable weather, multiple modes of transporation and countless cups of tea later we know that the warmth of our field partners and a new set of learnings await us.
There is wide consensus that the ability to protect children goes hand in hand with changes in policies, social structures, public dialogue and cultural norms that cause and reinforce various forms of child abuse, exploitation and violations. It is important to demonstrate that violation of children’s right to protection is not about oppression and violence in distant rural India or restricted to urban fringes but is intrinsic to how children are treated at home, in school, institutions and in the community.
To address some of the deeply entrenched norms and traditions that foster violence and abuse against children Leher not only works on community strengthening through its preventive programme in the field and system strengthening through many collaborations with resource organizations and governments at the local, state & national level, it also works on short, simple, visual messaging via the social media platform, to engage audiences that have the capacity to spread the message and demand change, including young people, photographers, writers, visual activists, parents, families and statutory bodies who can shape opinions and create change. The objective is to seed thought, and lead people through a journey to begin to understand and own child protection, connect it to justice for children, generate concern for it and build a profile for it.
SHORT & LONG CAMPAIGNS
A country of a billion went into frenzy making instant heroes and zeroes of India's players at the #rioolympics and #paralympics. While there has been the usual carping and complaining, grumbling and grouching over medals won and lost, the #olympics also generated some reflection on the importance of developing an inclusive sporting culture where each one of us needs to play a part. PV Sindhu, Sakshi, Deepa Karmarkar, Deepa Malik and Lalita Babbar amongst others gave face and recognition to many sports, showing through their compelling stories that sport plays an integral role in #childhood, not just to win medals, but to break stereotypes, challenge weaknesses, learn hard work, fight all odds, and live your dream.
Sport and play are immediately and intimately tied to the notion of childhood. Children are naturally drawn to sport and play, engaging all children, even the poorest and most marginalized, to have fun and enjoy their childhood! Through play children explore, invent and create. It is not just an end in itself; It has the potential to prevent disease, increase school attendance,
improve learning levels, foster gender equity, enhance inclusion of persons with disabilities and build skills that promote an overall social, economic development. For many children, however, the chance to learn and grow through sport and play is unavailable, robbing them of some of the most important experiences of childhood.
We brought stories of sports and play that were inspiring, uniting and life changing, reiterating that #playmatters for every childhood.
More than just a game: 7 ways in which sports and play for children boost development goals
Where do the children play?
How sports and play prompts quality education
Making a run for it: 5 children who have battled their circumstances
A champion’s outlook: #playmatters
CHILD LABOUR WINS OVER CHILD PROTECTION
Disappointed with the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Amendment Bill 2016 that in its fine print had contradictory provisions allowing children below 14 to work in family-based work especially in unorganized sector, Leher came out with a sequel to our campaign – Say NO to child labour, called ‘Child labour wins over child protection?’ to educate the public on how the new law stands to hamper child protection, and would shrink childhood for many poor children in India. Leher collaborated with ProChild (a network of child rights organizations) on this campaign.
#CHILDRENBEYONDGENDER This campaign tried to bring out the complex interrelationship between gender biology, gender identity and gender expression through simple real life stories, interviews, infographics, quiz and blogs. The need to look at a child as a child, not as a boy or girl, was reemphasised through all our communications.
#CHILDRENOFDROUGHT A serious drought had been developing across India during the summer of 2016, placing people in danger including millions of children. Child Rights activist Kailash Satyarthi stated that the drought situation affected 160 million children in India, and should be declared as a ‘national emergency’.
A quick scan of the news reports showed an increase of children being forced into child labour, trafficking, child marriage, the devadasi system [dedicating girls to service in temples] with children increasingly dropping out from school and migrating in large numbers due to the crisis. Government data declared 10 states that almost a quarter of the country's population had been hit by the drought drought hit due to a severe water deficit.
When demand far outweighed supply, the economic, agricultural and political impact of that began to corrode the cohesive fabric of society as villages, neighbours and even family members fought over whatever little water was left to be shared, putting at risk the littlest member of communities – children. We illustrated stories of drought from a childhood perspective, highlighting the interconnectedness of climate change and its impact on children.
In photos: Children in search of water
Parched lands… Putting lives of children at risk
In pics: The children of Maharashtra’s drought
The water warriors
Drought-ed into prostitution
Impact of drought on children
Lens man Ravi Kanojia dies on assignment covering drought
Remember the ‘Afghan girl’ in a pakistani refugee camp whose stare drilled into our collective conscience and made an uncaring world stop and take notice? Remember Vietnam’s ‘Napalm Girl’ whose crying face and naked body reminded us of the agony and horror of wars that destroyed childhoods? Remember the heart aching burial of an unknown child after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy? And remember the small Syrian boy came to be washed up on a beach in Turkey?
Those images shaped history, social conscience and spurred collective action towards justice for children, reiterating how a single photo can define a decisive moment in the minds of people. It was because photographers took on roles of activists, advocates, protectors, ambassadors and storytellers of children across the world, that their rights continue to draw much needed attention. Today, the rights of children demand a space, a place, a voice due to many who staked their lives to share visual narratives of children, who lived through sequestered places, war torn zones, disaster, famine and floods only to expose to the world the plight of todays children.
Everydaychildhood is an instagram-based curated visual project, giving a glimpse into the everyday lives of children across India, dedicated and curated from photographers and visual storytellers who when lift the camera to their eye… expose, explore, reveal, reflect, witness, prove, protect and unravel before us the countless stories of children that need to be seen and heard.
2016- 2017 saw poor budget allocations, imperfect implementation of schemes for children, defective safety provisions in homes, schools and public spaces, and nauseating violations of children in conflict zones across India. But on the flip side, it saw parents taking action alongside school administration, concerned citizens drawing out petitions to fight for ill-treated children and youth groups taking on social media to voice their opinions.
Change we believe happens, when each one claims their stake for the rights of children, and acts on it. This year we began our journey to address child rights creatively, partnering and working with agencies, photographers, and the creative community, because awareness and impact cannot be achieved in isolation. Bringing together diverse stakeholders to the same table, sharing our differing world views and slowly speaking the same language, we were on the path to visualize a collective impact, and work with, not despite each other.
MULLEN LOWE LINTASOne of the leading communication agencies in the country Mullen Lowe’s unique 18-month training program known as the Lowe Lintas Apprenticeship Program (LLAP) drew in 22 volunteers for our Little Humans campaign. It saw apprentices from across the country using their storytelling and photography skills to build the profile of children through this platform.
DEEPTI ASTHANAA well known travel and documentary photographer, Deepti Asthana’s social inclination brought her face to face with the Children of Spiti, whose stories often get lost amongst the pine trees and snow capped mountains. During her visit to the valley she documented the lives of children, cut off from basic access to education, technology and media, the new way of life of children across other parts of the world.
CONNECTFORA partnership to find and explore volunteers and professionals across sectors keen to understand and contribute to the child rights sector.
VIDEO VOLUNTEERSParticipation in a twitter storm for #khelbadal, an inititative by Video volunteers to dismantle patriarchy at the root by addressing the importance of the playground as a space to promote gender equality.
SAFECITYUnder SafeCity’s 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, Leher co-founder, Nicole Menezes, participated in a live facebook chat on ‘Making education safer for all’.
MY FATHER ILLUSTRATIONSIn collaboration with My Father Illustrations, a platform that illustrates stories of fathers who are pillars of strength in the lives of their daughters, Leher went into a community in Dahisar, Mumbai and met those fathers who are investing their love and time in the childhoods of their daughters. This ground project that highlighted the importance of the role of a father in his child’s life, brought together 5 father-daughter duos whose lives and stories were documented as part of the ‘Doodle with Dad’ – community based story camps.
HELEN KELLER INSTITUTEIn collaboration with one of the finest examples of a school that fosters the spirit of an inclusive society, respects and protects the rights of children with disabilities, provides adequate support and nurtures their abilities – allowing them to flourish and make a contribution to the world, we jointly created content – documented the day in the life of a deafblind child, narrated stories of children told through sign language, shared data infographics and interviewed key people working to make technology and media more disable friendly.
SAFE CITY PROGRAMIn collaboration with the Safecity program, Leher created awareness material for building safe urban communities in Mumbai. The objective was to equip community stakeholders, families, parents and service providers with knowledge on how to better protect their children and participate in creating a child-friendly community. In partnership with Unicef, Pratham, CCDT and Yuva, this material focused on ways to deal with adolescents in times of social media and drug abuse, looking for warning signs of child sexual abuse and ways to prevent it, and understanding child rights and each one's role in protecting children.
Popular perceptions on current topics have often created tight compartments, restricting coversation and action within so-called relevant sectors. If climate change is relevant to the people of the earth, why are children not part of this conversation? If religion and tradition are so deeply rooted in the upbringing of children, why do we never question its impact on their lives? If the conflict is claiming lives of innocent people, doesn’t it include the lives of children too?
But how would people disconnected from children find space for thoughts and actions related to their well-being? Making space for new ideas, fresh perspectives and opinions, and entering territory where child rights were little known, is what we believed was the way to start and sustain discourse on child protection. Our blogs became a medium to explore, understand and co-relate children and their rights to current trending topics.
"Working on Little Humans has given me a window into a child's mind. The key to working on this project is to make that child comfortable by engaging them in conversation. The best answers that you get are the most truthful and candid ones!"
Anushka Dalal, H.R.College of Commerce & Economics
“During my stint with Leher I got a chance to understand child related issues at a direct and deeper level. My work on Little Humans helped me delve into the minds of today's children and youth. From working on research to writing a blog, the ever engaging team at Leher made it an interesting and enriching experience.”
Neha Kulshrestha, Facilitator, Tamarind Tree
“During my internship I closely worked on juvenile stories for which I visited juvenile homes in Rajasthan. The entire experience was overwhelming and taught me that life is beyond the little protected box that we live in. As a law student I could analyse the gravity of the situation especially after the amendment made to the juvenile justice act. I’ll always be grateful to Leher for giving me this opportunity.”
Sakshi Modani, Law Student, Christ College
“Take the time to go beyond superficial questions and you’ll be surprised by the stories you’ll uncover. Also, don’t be afraid to spend time with the kids you speak to. I once spent a Sunday afternoon learning to play street cricket and it was by far one of the best experiences I had working on this campaign.”
Vanika Achreja, Boston University
SUPPORT & COLLABORATIONSAtlas Aquafin
Debasmita Dasgupta/ My Father Illustrations
Elsa D'silva/ SafeCity
Shloka Mehta/ Connectfor
Shweta Sampat/ Mullen Lowe Lintas
Suryakant Dalal/ Helen Keller Institute