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Until now, child protection has been examined mostly at a macro policy level. Community programs sit on the sidelines and are designed to reach children only after they fall into unsafe or unprotected situations. Leher aims to move beyond this curative approach to focus on a preventive approach in order to strengthen existing child protection systems.
Many child protection concerns are a fall out of India being an old civilization still burdened by outdated beliefs. It explains why a young population, willing to reject traditional practices of caste and class and eager to participate in a flatter world, are still held back by a feudal system where honour killing, child marriage, foeticide, caste, gender and other inequities are widely prevalent. There is a need to change attitudes and to provide holistic support to people and communities as they make this transformational change.
Experience proves that child protection is complex. It is little understood by ordinary people and hence there is little attention given to the issue and even less demand from our society for services and systems to protect children. There is a need to demystify notions of child protection to make it matter to everyone so that communities realize the importance, take responsibility for protecting their children and also demand protection for children from the state. There is an urgent need for simple, far-reaching communication and engagement on child protection.
What exactly is Child Protection?
Using this definition Leher also addresses issues of exclusion, access and discrimination that affect children.
Leher therefore defines a robust child protection system as one where families, communities, NGOs and government work together and in a coordinated manner to anticipate, prevent and respond to child protection violations. These groups must be guided by policy and law and supported by infrastructure, services and skilled human resources to best serve the interests of children.
Leher’s approach is creative and simple, yet rigorous and tactical—we are keenly aware that communities, governments and ordinary people have different perspectives on the safety of children. We work to bring them on to the same page. Leher goals and strategies are focused on shaping and developing preventive measures and systems, and on creating a culture of shared responsibility for protecting children between families, communities and in government.
Preventive child protection in communities
Leher aims to develop a local community engagement program that prevents children from being abused or exploited. Over a 5 year period, Leher aims to incubate a program to equip communities with awareness, understanding of their situation, skills to mobilize themselves, demand and monitor child protection.
Building Blocks of the program
- Participatory practices: The use of participatory practices equips communities with skills to critically evaluate their situation, mobilize themselves, act and demand for the safety and protection of children.
- Developing a district level baseline for child protection: Involving communities in generating credible evidence and data on the basis of which planning and monitoring would take place.
- Leadership development and capacity building: Giving communities a voice on child protection issues by nurturing leadership and ambassadors for child protection from key groups in communities which include children, youth, duty bearers, parents, and civil society organizations, who would advocate for child protection in their spheres.
- Partnership with government: Collaboration with the district administration and state government to ensure institutionalization of child-friendly procedure and protocols in public services and programs.
Pilot project: Madhubani district, Bihar
The program has been rolled out in the first district in the district of Madhubani in Bihar. We aim to scale the program to test it in additional districts and based on its impact, offer it as a program that can be adopted by government and other agencies towards building a robust protective environment for children. To read more on our Preventive child protection in communities model.
The program covers 63 villages in 3 blocks (Bisfi, Pandaul, Rajnagar).As part of developing our District Preventive Child Protection Program in Communities we felt the need to establish a baseline for child protection in the district. We have developed a methodology for conducting the District Need Assessment (DNA) The study comprises a primary and secondary study and uses participatory methods. This DNA was conducted in Madhubani district across the 63 villages in 3 blocks that the program covers. For more details on a step by step guide to conducting a DNA and preparing a DCPP in a district along with all tools for primary and secondary data collection refer to section below titled Research
Photoessay: A Childhood left behind- Children of Madhubani
What our children's groups are upto in Madhubani
Strengthening existing child protection systems
Child Protection Baseline Survey
Leher in collaboration with PRAXIS Institute of Participatory Research has developed a research methodology to conduct a child protection baseline survey at the district level. The strength of this methodology is that it recognizes communities as researchers in pursuit of answers to child protection concerns and it begins the process of change. Further, Leher has prepared a tool and guide for conducting this child protection baseline study. Since ICPS mandates the formulation of a district plan based on needs and vulnerabilities of children, this child protection baseline study tool lends itself to government and other agencies and such a study could form the basis for ICPS district child protection plans.
The District Need Assessment (DNA) study has been conducted in the district of Morigaon, Assam in collaboration with UNICEF and the State Child Protection Society.
Leher is currently using the same participatory methodology to conduct the DNA in Leh, Budgam, and Rajouri in Jammu and Kashmir, in collaboration with the respective state governments and UNICEF
The District Need Assessment (DNA) study has also been conducted in Madhubani Bihar, where Leher is developing a model for community based preventive child protection (To read more on the model and the DNA conducted in Madhubani refer to the section above titled - Pilot project: Madhubani district, Bihar.) For more details on a step by step guide to conducting a DNA and preparing a DCPP in a district
View the template used to collate secondary data from the various block level departments to gather information with specific focus to the child
View the Primary data village level tool used to collect data from children, adult community members and duty bearers at the village level through a set of participatory activities. In each village FGDs are conducted with adult community members(AGs) and children (CGs). The evidence from CGs and AGs is presented to duty-bearers-teacher/AWW/ASHA and IDI are conducted with each duty bearer to obtain their feedback. The process is open, interactive and the duty bearers’ evidence and comments are recorded against that of the AGs .This forms Part I of the tool kit
View the tool used to compile evidence from all villages which is presented to the duty bearer at the block level. This Block level duty bearers’ tool forms Part II of the tool kit.
View the template used to collate the data collected from Part I & II - Village Level Data Collation Template
Participatory review and audit of a residential care facility
Leher director was part of a core group that facilitated assessment of quality of care services in a children’s home in Delhi, providing residential care to over 300 children. Leher developed a methodology for the review, which involved preparing the frame, benchmarks against which care services provided by the Homes were assessed.
Facilitation of State level Consultation- End Violence against Children, Assam
Facilitated State level Consultation – End Violence against Children organized by Assam State Child Protection Commission & UNICEF that brought together all state and district level officials to work on convergence of child protection services in the state
Child protection training for IAS officers at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA)
Introduced concepts of protection and safety of children, and equipping them with knowledge on how they can play an enabling role in the protection of children in their capacity of administrators.
Training of District Child Protection Officers under ICPS in collaboration with Save the Children and Government of West Bengal
Sensitized the DCPOs on child protection, understanding child protection systems, discussed their roles, the challenges they faced and how they can be overcome.
Child Protection Policy orientation for Going to School (GTS)
Orientation to concepts of child protection, the organization child protection policy and implementation of the same.
Evaluation of Meljols Aflatoun & Aflateen program, India
Evaluation of Meljol’s Aflatoun and Aflateen programs implemented in collaboration with the Citibank Foundation. The evaluation covered Aflateen programs in schools, and Aflatoun and Aflateen programs in communities and in institutions.
Leher Director as Jury Member at AGFUND
Under the Chairpersonship of Prof. Muhammad Yunus assessed projects nominated for the AGFUND International Prize 2013, in the field of “Fighting the phenomenon of street children”, looking at innovation, scalability and replicability in other geographies.
Mid-project cycle evaluation of community based child marriage prevention program in 2 districts of AP and WB
A project of HAQ Centre for Child Rights in collaboration with JABALA, and MV Foundation, supported by Ford Foundation and McArthur Foundation to look at the issue of child marriage and the programmatic intervention through a child protection lens.
Evaluation of Child Helpline Bangladesh for UNICEF Bangladesh
Assessment on the relevance, efficiency, and effectiveness of CHL as a protection mechanism for children; the capacity of the management and implementing partners; the potential to scale-up CHL to be the national emergency helpline for children in Bangladesh.
Building a culture of child protection
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.
Leher therefore believes that the State is not the one responsible for child rights – everybody is. Therefore while our programs are geographically focused, our messages are targeted at multiple constituencies- communities in our program areas, parents, young people, who are tomorrow’s decision makers, community-based groups, civil society organizations, state agencies and private corporations.
Our messages are geared towards creating greater knowledge and understanding of children’s issues, towards nurturing alert and responsive communities. Our strategy is to catalyze changes in social norms and attitudes towards the protection and safety of children by encouraging collective thinking, interpersonal and public dialogue.
Leher aims to make child protection everybody’s business.
Initiating dialogue on child protection
Leher actively initiates and engages in dialogue on social media platforms like facebook, twitter, instagram and through blogs and campaigns on children’s issues. We aim to develop an intellectual community across various sectors who would take forward conversations and question matters that affect children, thus raising the profile of children’s issues, increasing public support and positively influencing the political will to invest in the care and protection of children.
Collectively demanding the protection of children
Leher works closely in alliances and partnerships, across networks and coalitions that represent a cohesive and collective voice for children at the local and national level.
Leher is member of ProChild, a coalition of 58 NGOs and several individuals academic institutions working for children in India and that have come together to discuss, pool their resources to advocate on CP issues. Leher is currently working with ProChild on its campaign for juvenile justice.
- Leher participated in the preparation of a memorandeum outlining demands for safety of children. It was endorsed by more than 30,000 community members and placed before all key political parties ahead of assembly elections in Delhi
- Leher contributed to a joint submission made by the ProChild Network to the Government of India with regards to the re-enactment and amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act. Leher also made a submission to the Government of India.
Leher is a part of India Alliance for Child Rights that represents a countrywide alliance of networks, NGOs, think tanks, activists, academia, working for the realization of the rights of children
- Representing the issues of Indian children before the UN Committee on the rights of the child Leher was invited to be part of a special Indian NGO delegation to present the issue of children in India before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in Geneva. Leher has submitted its recommendation to the delegation.
Putting the POCSO (Protection of children from sexual offences) Act into practice Leher is part of the task force on the implementation of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act in Maharashtra and to create the rules and process of implementation.
Bringing child protection into public discourse
We work to bring child protection into public dialogue in order to influence systemic and attitudinal changes. We engage with the public through representation in media activation (print and digital) bringing children’s issues to the public sphere.
The plight of child ragpickers in the city: Civil Society
Kajol Menon discusses the situation of a large number of children engaged in ragpicking and how they remain invisible to society.
Rescuing the child slave: Civil Society
Through case stories, Kajol Menon discusses the increasing number of children engaged in domestic labour and the lack of state commitment to the development and protection of children.
Childhood interrupted: The Hindu
Nicole Menezes discusses Leher’s viewpoint on reducing the age of a juvenile in conflict with law from 18 to 16 years
Putting security back into childhood: The Hindu
In response to repeated acts of sexual violence against children in India, in 2013, Nicole Menezes discusses the role of the state and members of society in building a culture of child protection in the country
3 years not enough: Newshour debate, Times Now
In relation to the verdict on the juvenile accused in the Delhi Gang Rape case and in support of Dr. Subramanian Swamy’s PIL seeking interpretation of the term juvenile, Kajol Menon, co-founder, Leher, argues against reduction of the threshold of juvenility from 18 to 16 years of age, even in the case of heinous crimes.
Justice for Juveniles: Open Magazine
Co-authored by the founders of Leher, this article talks about how the failure of the system for reforming a juvenile does not obliterate the need for one.
How Indian societies perceive children: Wall Street Journal
In an interview with Shanoor Seervai of WSJ, Kajol talks of the role Leher shall play in demystifying notions of child protection that exist within our society, increasing the reach of this subject through deeper engagement with the youth and opinion leaders and bringing child protection to the mainstream social agenda.
Little Humans, inspired by Humans of New York, is a campaign meant to capture the voices of the very people Leher aims to serve. As a child rights organization, we want nothing more that to create a safer world for children. Having shifted the tide towards prevention and not just protection, collecting stories of children and teens from all walks of life and with varying degrees of privilege helps them to be seen and heard, deepening our understanding of children and their needs. This photo project is meant to be creative and journalistic in nature, with a contribution from all those who seek to bring children's stories to the fore.
More on little humans
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No Prison for Children
Leher, as a member of ProChild led the social media campaign on Juvenile Justice - No Prison for children. The primary objective was to oppose the Government's move to exclude certain children (16-18 years) from the protection they receive under the Juvenile Justice system, by re-enacting the law. Since Government and public opinion on the issue of juveniles was shaped by the Nirbhaya case, the aim of NPFC was to speak to the youth and dispel misconceptions, explain facts, and generate some positive discourse around the issue.
Learn more about the campaign
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