Who We Are
The Leher Tale Sheila’s hair was pulled out in clumps because dinner was brought to the table late. Little Lakshmi cried herself to sleep every night after being abused by her grandfather. Raju, in a fit of rage, accidently killed his drunk, violent father.
With over a decade and a half in developing India’s national emergency response service for vulnerable children, the founders of Leher listened to such heart-breaking stories for several years.
With an increasing awareness of the importance of a preventive approach to child protection, they are convinced that now is the time to shift the focus from intervention to prevention. The time is ripe to find solutions that prevent such abuse and violations in the first place.
So, in January 2013, they launched Leher.
Nipa has spent the past 9 years in the development sector with a focus on Communications for Development in the child rights and protection domain. Beginning with Sandhi Craft Foundation where she developed and documented a report for Nabard on the weaver clusters in Bhandara, she moved on to CHILDLINE India Foundation (CIF) as Manager, Resource Mobilization, where she was responsible for fundraising and relationship building/management with key corporate supporters and individual donors. She moved on as Manager, Communications & Strategic Initiatives where she worked on CIF’s overall communication vertical including social media, publications, films, campaigns and media stories. While at CHILDLINE she worked on 4 animation films, from concept and ideation, until completion of the films- on the subjects of child sexual abuse, child marriage, child labour and corporal punishment. The film 'Komal' on child sexual abuse has received over 25 national and international awards and been translated to over 20 foreign languages, in addition to being made compulsory in all government schools across India. Nipa also has a background in media and public relations, having worked with the MS&L group. She is passionate about the visual medium and is a trained photographer from Central St.Martins, London, in addition to lending her creative skills at Leher. She co-created Little Humans, a volunteer-driven campaign telling stories of children through photography and incubated Everyday Childhood, a curated platform on instagram, sharing visual stories of childhood, two unique campaigns of Leher. Nipa is manages the volunteers, photographers and other key collaborations that strengthened these campaigns further. She also anchored, coordinated and lead No Prison For Children, a social media campaign on juvenile justice in India, and has developed several micro campaigns on child protection issues such as #saynotochildlabour, #childrenbeyondgender, #playmatters amongst others. Nipa anchors the communications vertical at Leher, exploring campaigns and collaborations to meet the overall vision of Leher.
Kajol (Devasmita) Menon, Co-Founder
With a career span of 30 years in teaching, media, communications and development, Kajol is committed to issues of marginalized communities, justice and equity, particularly children and their rights. As Executive Director CHILDLINE India Foundation (CIF), she spearheaded India’s helpline for children into one of the largest child protection networks in the country. With the ambitious aim of expanding CHILDLINE to every district in India, she has managed the CHILDLINE network of over 450 civil society organizations, lead a team of 100 personnel at CIF and built national and global relationships with government, funding agencies, civil society and other strategic partners to increasing the public’s understanding of and engagement with child rights. Kajol is particularly passionate about scaling-up into replicable models and adapting technology to make child rights real.
Nicole Menezes, Co-Founder
Nicole is a development professional with over 14 years of work in the sphere of child rights and protection. Passionate about the rights of children, Nicole joined the founding team of CHILDLINE India in 1999. She was instrumental in developing the service from a single helpline for street children in Mumbai to the largest helpline in India, embedded in the nation’s child protection system, now reaching one third of India’s children. As Deputy Director of CIF, Nicole managed the CHILDLINE network across the North and East of India, managed the relationship between CIF and the Government of India and led organizational plans and strategy development processes. Nicole has contributed significantly to research studies and projects on the protection of children including steering a national study on the status of child protection mechanisms across 10 states of India.
Richa is a trained social worker. She has spent the last six years working with child protection systems in India. She started her journey with CHILDLINE India Foundation, where she was responsible for the initiation, monitoring and evaluation of CHILDLINEs across 8 districts of Uttar Pradesh. Richa was empanelled by NCPCR as a social worker in the jail visit team, Tihar jail, Delhi, to undertake identification and documentation of prisoners lodged in Tihar jail who should have been the beneficiaries of Juvenile Justice Act at the time of committing the offence/crime, in compliance of an order issued by the High Court of Delhi. After having worked at the intervention and response level on child protection, she moved on to Leher, sharing its vision, to develop and strengthen avenues for preventive work on child protection in India. Richa has previously worked in Railway Children, as a Programme Officer - Strategic Alliance, where she was responsible for the coordination of a national level qualitative research study on restoration practices. Before that, in her capacity as a consultant for Railway Children, she has undertaken the process documentation of RC's work in Chandauli, Uttar Pradesh, and has drafted a vision document for their further work in the district. Working with PAIRVI, Richa has carried out the snap assessment of malnutrition treatment centers in the Maoist affected districts of Jharkhand, India. Currently, she leads programmes and capacity building at Leher. Richa has played a key part in the research studies undertaken by Leher. She manages and develops Leher's pilot initiative on preventive child protection in communities in Madhubani, Bihar, rooted in community participation and empowerment for the protection of children. While at Leher, Richa has co-drafted the SOP on case management and referral system for women and children in difficult circumstances, for National commission for Women and Children, Royal Government of Bhutan, and the manual for care givers on improving living conditions in child care institutes, for National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. Richa's experience extends to work in Jammu and Kashmir, where she anchored Leher’s work on participatory research with communities, and co-led the documentation of UNICEF’s pilot initiative on child friendly spaces in Kashmir valley, making issues of conflict resolution, peace and community building close to her heart. She has undergone training on restorative justice/circles/approaches and is enthusiastic about exploring the philosophy and practice of restorative approaches amidst the juvenile justice framework and its wider application to child protection work in India.
Tasha has been working in the child-rights sector for the past eight years. She has worked at the Planning Commission of India, where she developed papers on the economic crisis and its impact on gender, and trafficking. Her next stint was atCHILDLINE India Foundation (CIF), where she was the key researcher for the ‘Everywhere Child Project’, a nation-wide baseline study on the status of child-protection mechanisms covering ten Indian states. In addition, Tasha developed a training module on handling cases of missing children for police academies across India with advice from UNICEF. She has represented CIF as well at the India Alliance for Child Rights (IACR) undertaking specific tasks to aid in the Alternate/ NGO reporting process in relation to the UNCRC. Tasha has also worked as a consultant with UNICEF, for whom she analysed sample child-protection Information-Education-Communication (IEC) material from across the country to identify present trends and gaps in communication on child protection issues. In addition, she documented and analysed the work of village-level child protection committees across nine states, to frame strategies to guide the formation of child protection committes across the country, in association with UNICEF. Tasha has a keen interest in research. She has been a part of Leher since its inception and is a founding member of our organisation. Tasha has been trained on participatory research and anchors Leher’s researchwork , which has recently completed baseline studies regarding child protection in six districts across four states and is part of development of Leher’s pilot preventive child-protection programme in Madhubani, Bihar. She has co-lead the development of a toolkit for conducting district-level child-protection baseline surveys. Tasha also worked on the Juvenile Justice Campaign—No Prison for Children,undertook data analysis to prepare content for a microsite dedicated to the campaign. Tasha represents Leher at national and civil-society consultations. Tasha also plays a key role in organization management and development at Leher.
Madhusudan Menon, Board Member
Madhu is a Chartered Accountant with over 23 years in banking, initially with the Reserve Bank of India and then with American Express Bank where he was Senior Director, responsible for Commercial Banking and Capital Market activities in India. Since leaving AEB in 2002, he has been an advisor to various business groups in India as a wealth management and capital market specialist. He has a keen interest in using commercially viable business models to stimulate and sustain social change.
He is currently the Chairperson at Micro Housing Finance Corporation (MHFC).
Abhiroop Mukhopadyay, Board Member
With a Ph.D in Economics from The Pennsylvania State University, USA, Abhiroop’s primary specialization is in Micro-Econometric methods applied to topics relating to Health, Education and Labour in developing countries (particularly India). His recent research is on the economic effects of HIV-AIDS and cancer, the impact of better school infrastructure on rural schooling attendance and changes in Intra-Household allocation of labour due to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Currently, Abhiroop is an Associate Professor, Economics & Planning Unit, at the Indian Statistical Institute in Delhi
Pradeep Narayan, Board Member
Pradeep is a human rights and social development researcher. He has over 17 years of experience working in different capacities with leading government and non-government organizations in India, including CEC, CHILDLINE, CRY, Global March Against Child Labour, Save The Children, Plan, ActionAid, Magic Bus and other child protection and development organisations. He is involved in a number of projects on participatory monitoring and evaluation, policy advocacy, participatory research and capacity building across various sectors in India, South Asia and Africa.
Presently, Pradeep Narayanan is Director, Research and Consultancies, at Praxis Institute for Participatory Practices in Delhi.
Nilima Mehta, Board Member
Dr. Nilima Mehta has a masters degree in social work and a doctorate in sociology. She has done extensive work on the subject of child rights, child protection, family strengthening and non institutional alternative care like adoption, foster care and family counselling. Dr. Mehta was the chairperson of the first Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Mumbai, constituted under the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act, 2000. She has been a consultant to several organizations like Unicef, CRY, Childline India Foundation, ICSW, Indian Council for Child Welfare (ICCW), CCW, IAPA, Family Service Centre (FSC) and Vatsalya Foundation. Dr. Mehta has been associated with the state and central government and the Planning Commission for policy development, training, research and review of national legislation concerning children. She was the Chairperson of the Central Adoption Regulation Agency (CARA) training and development committee.
Dr. Mehta has been a Chair Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and is a visiting professor at the Bombay University, and SNDT. She authored Ours By Choice - Parenting through Adoption, and Juvenile Justice System in India and Child Protection.
Vikas Srivastava, Board Member
Vikas is a Senior Partner with Luthra & Luthra Law Offices. He heads the Tax Practice of the firm, and has over 29 years’ experience in the area of Corporate Taxation, domestic as well as international. He has been ranked among the ‘Leaders in their Field: Tax’ by Chambers & Partners - Asia 2012. He strongly believes in equitable access to legal aid across all sections of the society, and in his capacity as a Senior Partner at Luthra & Luthra Law Offices, he has provided pro bono legal advice to several charitable institutions. He is also on the Board of Central Square Foundation, which is a philanthropy fund focused on improving the educational outcomes for low-income children in India.