Transform the Lives of Children in Gujarat, India

 
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As usual the activities in Shaishav never gets dried up as the monsoon in this part of the country. In fact there has been a multifold of activities took placed during the month of October and November.

In last week of October, Shaishav’s community team organized a residential camp in Bhavnagar for 38 child laborers, aged from as young as 8 years to 18 years. The main objective for organizing the event was to make them aware about the importance of education and to convince them to connect with preferably formal education or at least some kind of informal education. They were also given proper understating about all the basic rights through films, games and activities. The children were asked to prepare a drama wherein they themselves displayed how difficult circumstances they were passing through at their work places. They also discovered about some hazardous work which can cause severe damage to their health and risk their future. Children also expressed how badly elders use to behave with them. Towards the end of the two day program, children were asked to draw a dream tree, wherein they articulated their desires of life.

During first week of November, 15 senior team members from Shaishav, along with 7 Tarunsena members and 6 Balsena children embarked on their week-long study tour of few organization in Rajasthan. They visited Tilonia, MKSS, Loktantra Shala, Sewamandir, Shikshantar and Swaraj University. The team members closely observed and overviewed various activities and programs and understood the operations of these institutions. The tour provided a new vision and perspective to effectively improve on their performance. 

Shaishav is currently a convener of Child Right Collective – Gujarat (CRCG). CRCG is a group of citizens and organizations committed to realizing the basic rights of children. In India, including in Gujarat, the child rights movement has evolved considerably since 1992. Organizations and sensitive citizens who shared the same views against child labour created a network to work in unison and to campaign against child labour and for the protection of other basic rights of children. The focus was on increasing awareness on the issue of child labour and its specific nature in Gujarat. The objectives of these efforts were to directly ensure the protection of children’s rights and to advocate at both the state and national levels to strengthen and stimulate relevant policies. Secondary objectives of the CRC-G included improving the level of participation amongst members, bringing the voice of children into policy debates and improving co-ordination between child rights organizations operating in Gujarat. Essentially, this would provide the child rights movement with a clear direction and a comprehensive identity (at the state level).

As a key contributor to the child rights movement, the CRC-G has organized various initiatives to increase awareness about children’s rights amongst the people of different communities in Gujarat. These activities include drives to enroll child laborers into schools and educational and recreational camps for working children, focused campaigns on girl child laborers, raising public interest litigation cases in the State High Court, sensitizing government and social protection bodies to the issue, and increasing awareness through the media. This continuous and diverse effort has yielded a positive impact on child welfare on both the state and national stages.

A number of organizations working with children in Gujarat have formed children’s collectives. The strength, form, participation and levels at which these collectives raise children’s issues varies. One thing that both UNICEF – Gujarat and the CRC-G feel strongly about is that efforts of the collectives are scattered and disjointed with limited learning and interaction in between individual collectives. This is not unlike the situation that existed for Child Rights Organizations in Gujarat before the formation of the CRC-G. Additionally, there are many national level forums such as the Campaign against Child Labour or the Right to Education Forum, seeking to address various children’s issues. However, like the CRC-G, representatives at these forums are adults which sometimes results in the views of children being diluted, inadequately heard or conveyed and in the worst case entirely lost.

This led to the idea of bringing these collectives under one umbrella and forming a state level forum for children. In essence, a body like the CRC-G but for children. This will ensure an optimum level of participation and enable children to directly and more effectively raise their concerns. Such a forum will afford children the chance of learning about the issues children face and what they are doing in other parts of Gujarat. Subsequently, they will work collectively to identify best practices and adapt these to the needs of their communities and use the experience to strengthen their own advocacy efforts. Given an appropriate platform, the CRC-G firmly believes that children can raise their voices more vibrantly, effectively and truthfully alongside adults.

The idea resulted in a four days long residential workshop, which was organized from 21st to 26th November 2015 at St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad. 44 boys and 46 girls from diverse background but mostly underprivileged, along with 34 team members and volunteers from 16 organizations from 12 districts of Gujarat, took part in the entire process. The age group of the children was between 12 to 16 years. It was ensured that the same children will attend the entire process to maintain consistency and participation. The entire process is planned in three intervals which is expected to be concluded in May 2016.

The first 4-day session began by giving all children a chance to share the nature, work and experiences of their own collectives. This led to the second stage which entailed bringing all children up to the same level in terms of their knowledge about children’s rights (in particular education, participation and protection), their violations and possible measures to ensuring rights. The final part of the session focused on informing the children and adults about the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the SDGs (in particular those that directly relate to children). Discussing the local realities of issues addressed by relevant goals, children identified (in broad terms) the gaps between their current situation and the suggested goal. They were also engaged on how to collect information on the gaps that have been identified during the session.

The children spent the time in between sessions to collect, document and debate data on different issues in the communities; meeting once at the midway point to ensure the process is running smoothly and to maintain interest. They also identified in more detail the mismatch between their current situation and their targets, share their experiences of the process so far and learn about how to effectively analyze their data during the mid-way session.

The final session was focused on analyzing and then sharing the information collected which was then presented by the children. Finally children created an Action Plans for both the local and the state levels. They were involved identifying overlapping themes and recurring issues and work collectively to create an action plan addressing common issues. They then presented their plans for execution which will be done with their individual collectives (at the local level) and as a “state level collective of collectives” at the state level. The entire process was very fulfilling and joyful not only for children but also for adults accompanied them. On the concluding day children went for an exposure visit to Gandhi Ashram and Science Museum.

We thank you all for the persistent support and encouragement. 

After the sweltering heat, the new academic session get started in June along with the monsoon season. As every year, this year also Shaishav’s community team carried out an enrollment drive during hot summer in 30 communities to encourage the number of children who were on the risk of being dropped out. The team visited door to door and convinced vulnerable children to enroll in the school. This way they have helped this children saved from becoming the victim of child labor.

Over a period of 20 years, Shaishav have gathered an invaluable knowledge in the field of Children Rights through our grass root work with underprivileged children. Today, we are proud to become a pioneered organization established in sharing our knowledge through Trainings and Activities. The best example of our success is our appointments as a Training Felicitator by UNICEF Gujarat to impart child rights trainings to their grass root partner organizations of Gujarat. It is our persistent dream and conscious effort to spread the Child Rights awareness and sensitize the larger audience not only in Gujarat, but all across. 

Our proud moments recently came when our funding partner Childreach International have recognized our ability and approached us to give training to their volunteers and teachers in Nepal. In the recent massive earthquake in Nepal, the population which was severely affected & displaced were the children who not only lost their homes but families also. The earthquake has badly damaged the infrastructure in the country which also included school building. According to Unicef’s report, it is believed that almost one million children who were enrolled in school before the disastrous earthquake occurred, could now find no accessibility to education. Almost 24000 classrooms were damaged or destroyed. This has resulted in an urgent need to provide safe spaces for educational activities. It is often observed that in setting the priorities in rehabilitation work, the more emphasis is always given to fulfill lifesaving assistance such as water, food and shelter and education and protection of children survived, is often neglected. Prolonged interruption to education can have a long term adverse effect for children’s development and future prospects.

Childreach International has invited our core training team to educate their facilitators, teachers and volunteers in week long training. The week long workshop commenced with the need assessment study which uncovered the immediate need to fulfill health, protection and educational requirements to the children. It was revealed that an immediate action is required to protect children against child trafficking. The different between Wants and Rights was thoroughly discussed. Sessions also covered to improve proper understating about all the four rights i.e. Rights to Survive, Rights to Protection, Rights to Participation and Rights to Developments through fun, games and activities such as drawings, crafts, basic scientific experiments. This was followed by a demonstration workshop directly with the children at school in badly affected village in Bhaktapur District. The training was found to be very useful, fulfilling, to the point and as per the need assessment test done at the commencement of a workshop. We wish to thanks our partner Childreach International UK and Nepal for their overwhelming support in conducting this workshop successfully and expect to continue the relationship in future.

Our children collective Balsena held their 13th election. 119 Boys and 61 Girls participated in the process which begun with introduction of each contestant followed by voting. 5 Boys and 4 Girls contested the election and each one tried their best to appeal this council members to vote for them. One admirable incident occurred during the election which has opened our eyes and make our head held high with pride. One Girl who was contesting the election could not turn up in time till the voting begun. The facilitator asked the council whether to disqualify this girl due to her absence. These 180 children gave the best example of maturity by allowing the girls to contest the election. When asked for the reason they unanimously replied that the girl is one of the most eligible and must have remain absent due to some unknown but really valid reasons. Thought the Girl somehow turned up at the very last moment and eventually won the election and was made 13th President of Balsena. She will represent Balsena – a collective 2500 children at various state and national level events. The Chief Guest presided the occasion incidentally was our former Member of Parliament and was really overwhelmed and moved by watching this pride moments.

Our Bachat (Savings) Bank is a children’s micro-finance initiative which is open for all the Balsena children from community circle points and schools. The Bank was set up in July 2004 to cultivate the habit of savings and encourage independent decisions making regarding spending money amongst children. Some of these children have started saving habits at a very young age of 6 to 8 and have continued till date. Mostly the money which they saved are saved from the pocket money or a cash gift that they receive from their parents and relatives occasionally. The children instead of spending this money for unnecessary refreshment and entertainment, save and put it into their account and use it to spend in future for their educational needs, medical expenditure, travel or domestic emergencies. By doing so, they have set the example especially for the children from elite class who just splurge their parent’s money in the luxury and unnecessary pastimes.

The children have themselves decided to save at least Rs.5/- every week and deposit in their savings bank account. The account of each child is maintained by Shaishav staff who visits every week to collect and disburse money at each circle point where children gather. Each child has been given a passbook which gets updated on each transaction. So far, about 2000 children have saved close to twelve lacs since inception. It started in 8 Balsena circle points in community with 148 children. Today, we have 382 children from 21 different circle points having savings of more than a lec.

On 4th Jul 2015, these children celebrated their 11th Annual Program and presented the Audited Annual Accounts to share with members of the Bachat Bank. They have invited Manager of IDBI Bank, Bhavnagar Branch as Chief Guest to preside the occasion. During the Financial Year 2014-15, 382 children have deposited Rs. 90,690/- and withdrawn Rs.1,09,473/-. Amongst the money withdrawn about 80% of money is used by the children to pay school fees, buy books, stationery and uniforms. Less than 20% of the money was withdrawn to help parents to meet household expenses such as pay house rent, electricity bills or repay loans. A very negligible amount was withdrawn for entertainment expenses. This reflects how these highly spirited, inspiring and self-reliant children from slums are so much sensitive, sincere and courageous to face and understand the reality of life keeping their head high.

To give a greater meaning to celebrate this year’s Independence Day of India on 15th August, Balsena children decided to carry out “Project Bhavnagar”. The project was prepared by senior Balsena members on their own by doing research and collecting information on the city such as History, Dynasty, Freedom Fighters, Artists, Poets & writers, Political History, Demographic, Geography, and Education etc. in the form of Exhibition. The research begin on 1st August and was released and inaugurated on 15th August in the presence of many Baldosts of Balsena.

Thanks for the support and encouragement. 

Balsena children performing at the vacation camp.
Balsena children performing at the vacation camp.

The summer in Bhavnagar is characterised by the sweltering heat which lasts until the start of the monsoon. It slows down the pace of the city. However, for Shaishav and the children with whom we work; the summer means school vacations and our busiest time of the year.

A number of children from the communities in which we work are pressured to support their household income by working during these holidays. This sometimes results in them dropping out of school when the new term begins. We use this time to organise fun and educational activities to engage children and ensure they better understand and enjoy their rights. More importantly, we strive to ensure that children do what they are supposed to during the summer, i.e. enjoy themselves!

Our work with Balsena (Our Children’s Collective):

Over 300 children from Balsena participated in our Summer Vacation Camp which ran throughout the month of May. Children engaged in sports, creative classes like pottery and took educational trips around the city. An additional 45 active members from Balsena who had already taken a level of responsibility in their respective groups attended a leadership camp split over two weekends. This was organised by members of Tarunsena (our youth collective) who mentored the children, took them trekking and engaged with them on themes like leadership, management and teamwork.

A celebration on World Environment Day was also organised, in which 60 children participated. The children spent time discussing environmental issues relevant to their communities. They also designed posters and recycled paper to make bags which they then distributed across the city to raise awareness.  

Our Campaign Against Child Labour in Bhavnagar:

A city-wide campaign to combat child labour was launched. Performing in public spaces across the city, members of Balsena and Tarunsena joined staff in organising plays on child rights and related issues. Awareness was further increased by distributing literature, putting up posters and engaging with the public at various events. A petition against child labour in Bhavnagar was also launched which was subsequently signed by the Mayor and Assistant Labour Commissioner. Over 5000 people were actively engaged and involvement of children and youth dramatically increased public interest. Finally, an activity camp for non-school going and/or working children was organised for 46 children. The activities were so popular that a number of children in fulltime education also attended. Their interactions with the participants was monumental in increasing awareness about children’s rights and the importance of education amongst the working children from the city.

Other Work within Bhavnagar:

As part of our drive to make Bhavnagar a safe city for children, our Childline team trained 175 police officers from the Bhavnagar Railway Division in child protection, relevant government acts and mental health issues related to their work. They also resolved 12 cases of children who required assistance reported via our child helpline.

Our Work outside Bhavnagar:

Shaishav partnered with Suraksha Setu to train 1155 children (from Surat and Valukad) on children’s rights, issues affecting adolescents and child sex abuse. We also entered a new partnership conducting an activity workshop with vision-impaired children from the Divyajyoth Trust in Maandvi. This was both a challenging and rewarding experience and we hope to further this partnership in the coming months.

Affecting Wider Change:

Shaishav has been taking an increasingly active role in bringing about wider change through advocacy, publishing our learnings and research and creating a strong collective voice by developing networks of like-minded organisations. This summer, senior staff attended a Regional Meeting regarding the Juvenile Justice Act and a public hearing for the Right to Education Forum. At both meetings, we relayed the on-the-ground realities faced by children and their communities and the effectiveness of these policies in safeguarding children’s rights. Our Voice of Children report which showcases the opinions of the children that participated in Child Rights Week 2014 (a state-wide celebration organised by Shaishav) was also published this summer.

 

On behalf of everyone at Shaishav, all the children of Balsena and their elder peers at Tarunsena, I would like to thank all of you for your generous support. If you have any questions or want further information on any of our programmes feel free to get in touch or have a look at our website.

 

THANK YOU!

Pottery Class!
Pottery Class!
Vacation camp for working children.
Vacation camp for working children.
A play performed in public (part of our campaign).
A play performed in public (part of our campaign).
Balsena Children gathered for Flag hosting
Balsena Children gathered for Flag hosting

Adolescents are not monsters. They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves.

-      Virginia Satir

 

India is a young nation. According to India’s demographical profile of 2014, it has the largest population of adolescents in the world being home to 243 million individuals aged 10-19 years. Accordingly the country's adolescents constituted 20 per cent of the world's 1.2 billion adolescents. Most adolescents have concerns about acceptance by their peers. They often face social rejection due to their difficulty in controlling their social and emotional changes. Social issues encountered in childhood can become worse in adolescence, with the intensity of any rejection or bullying increasing during the teenage years. This rejection can negatively affect both academic performance and emotional health—and can be, in fact, much more troubling to them than making poor grades in school.

Shaishav, while working with children for about 20 years now, have understood and have taken up the challenge of this very sensitive issue. We do regular activities for recognising their issues and motivate them to tackle it without compromising social behaviour. On 10th January 2015, around 210 boys from different schools of Bhavnagar participated in Kishor Samelan. Boys were divided in small groups and introduced to different sessions which had covered the subjects like Difference between boys and girls, physical, psychological and emotional changes during adolescence, Gender discrimination and personal safety. Kishori Samelan was on the following day. Around 160 girls form different schools participated in it. Similar activities were done with girls also. However they were introduced to a Self Defence Wenlido introduction training as well. The Kishori Samelan was ended with an inspiring key note address of Ms Parul Dandikar, an editor of ‘Bhumi-putra’ a well-known publication of Gujarat.

Shaishav also organised State level convention with children in the last week of Dec 2014 to celebrate 12th year of founding Balsena. About 45 children from different districts of Gujarat participated in a 3 day residential workshop held at Bhavnagar. Children learned life skills, friendship & self-development through various games and activities. These children have also discussed various historical, social & cultural issues related to their region. This was followed by a 12th Balsena Annual Celebration being held on 28th Feb 2014. About 780 Balsena children from different community and schools participated in a rally which was followed by Balsena Flag Hoisting and a day long workshop with a theme of an airplane. They were taught how to make different type of airplane using paper. They were also shown history on airplane and its occurrence through an exhibition and a 20 minutes film. Children made paper plane from a used papers. They were also given understanding on making best out of waste, environment awareness and block printing.

Tarunsena Leadership Camp was organised on 30th Jan 2015 to 31st Jan 2015. 19 youths participated in this 2 day residential workshop being held at Manar, an outskirts of Bhavnagar under a mentorship of Falgun & Parul Sheth. They introduced to each other through an activity in which they revealed many things about themselves which they never expressed before. They were introduced to few games through which they learned how to solve problems by supporting each other, understand and respect other’s opinion, helping improve each other, viewing things with different angle, understand leadership quality, teamwork, decision making, determination, integrity and determination. It was followed by Tarunsena Annual Celebration on 1st Feb 2015, where 35 youths participated by discussing their past activities, future plan of action on programs of Tarunsena.

A leadership camps for active Balsena children were organised in which they were given detail and wider understating of child rights through different activity and games.

UNICEF has been working in two districts of Gujarat by developing partnership with the local organization of these districts on the issues of Child Protection, education and Child Participation. UNICEF has appointed Shaishav as their training partner. The training of phase IV with five UNICEF partner organizations was conducted at district level to implement the project effectively. This training was conducted near Baroda during 2 to 4March 2015. Total 51 members participated in this training.

The training included the subjects like effective implementation of project at field level, Self-development; prepare planning of Field level execution, Standard Methodology to prepare Case Studies and Enhancement of work capacity with various groups and community mobilization. The three days induction training was conducted with the purpose of effective implementation of the project in the field.         

During this period, there were lot of advocacy initiatives took place and Shaishav was also recognised for their activity with children and the work on Child Rights.

  • Governor of Gujarat & UNICEF honoured Shaishav for most innovative work with children in the state.
  • Bhavnagar Old Port Industrial Association also recognized Shaishav and its activities.
  • Save The Children – India, invited Balsena President Ms.Shivani  Gondalia to 3 day program UN Action2015 held at New Delhi where she was privileged to meet & do presentation to Ms.Yoo Soon-taek (Wife of Hon. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon); Dr. Najma A. Heptulla – Cabinet Minister for Minority Affairs; Kaveri Bamsai – Senior Correspondent India Today Group. She was amongst 200 children participated from all over India.
  • Shaishav was invited in a Regional Round Table Conference on the Effective Implementation of Juvenile Justice in Bhopal organized by High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Madhya Pradesh & UNICEF

During the period, Shaishav participated in RTE Forum – National Board meeting to plan future strategy, stock taking, public hearing etc. at New Delhi. It also participated in a workshop on critical insights on Budget organized by CBGA (Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability) and National Convention on Union Budget 2015-16 at New Delhi

Thank You

Child Right week celebration Yatra 1
Child Right week celebration Yatra 1

Shaishav, as a Child Rights organisation, is committed to protect all the rights recognised by United Nation Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC) declared in 1989. The convention changed the way children are being viewed and treated as human beings with distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity. The unprecedented acceptance of the Convention globally clearly shows a serious commitment to protect and spread children’s rights world over. There is much to celebrate as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention, from declining infant mortality to rising school enrolment, but this historic milestone must also serve as an urgent reminder that much remains to be done. Too many children still do not enjoy their full rights on par with their peers.

Shaishav has always been committed to celebrate child rights week that falls in November each year. 14th November is a National Children’s Day in India and 20th November is International Child Rights Day. So the organizations working with CRBA celebrate it as a Child Rights Week every year. This year is especially important as this year the whole world is celebrating the 25th years of UNCRC. With initiative of Shaishav, Child Rights Collective – Gujarat (CRC-G) also organized a special state level event. CRC-G is a network of Voluntary Organizations and individuals who are committed to the rights of children. From 12th to 20th Nov 2014, about 75 member team participated in CRC-G's Child Rights Yatra (Expedition) with support of UNICEF Gujarat, in 19 district of Gujarat comprising 3 different routes. On 12th and 13th November, training was given to the participant team members from different organizations of Gujarat. The Yatra began from 14th to 19th November. We reached out to more than 10,000 children and adults directly and many more indirectly from more than 180 organizations and schools. Yatra was concluded on 20th Nov 2014 in Ahmedabad with state level convention, where many leading educationists, journalists, activists & intellectuals were present. The yatra team gathered a very critical data during yatra about Child Friendly communities and Child Friendly schools from children, parents, teachers, community workers, child rights activists etc. We have adapted the Child Friendly toolkit that is designed by Prof. Roger Harts of Children Environment Research Group, City University New York. It gave us the real ground reality in situation of children's rights in the area of education, protection, participation, gender inequality and social status. It was really fulfilling, satisfying & learning experience for all the team members participated in the event. The local organisation's participation and encouragement has given a hope in organising similar events in future as well. Many organisations were highly impressed and invited Team Shaishav to give training on Child Rights to their staff members & community children in their respective area. We are currently compiling the data & outcomes for enable us to publish a learning document in about 2 to 3 months from now.

Shaishav continued its’ partnership with UNICEF Gujarat for extending training on child rights, child protection, education and eradication of child marriages, to their six partner organizations in Gujarat who are working in grassroots with community and children. We are holding workshop on Capacity Building of the team members of these partner organizations in December end at Bhavnagar through our CRTRC (Child Rights Training and Resource Centre) initiative. CRTRC serves to support and strengthen many educational and empowerment training programs that Shaishav has designed and created on Teaching & Learning Materials (TLMs) and to share the same with organisations working in similar fields.

The vision of Shaishav is to create a safe, supportive and responsive society that upholds the protection, rights and dignity of every child in India (as defined by the law). This is to be achieved by establishing effective prevention and early intervention measures, strengthening treatment support services and building partnerships. We do this by engaging with all sectors of society upon whom the wellbeing of children depends, in initiatives that will bring about these changes.                 In our last report, we have mentioned about launch of Child Protection Policy (CPP) on 2nd August 2014 in the Bhavnagar district which is the first district in the state of Gujarat. This policy is designed as outlined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) under Article 19 and various legal statutes of the prevailing law in India. We are happy that this policy was widely recognised, accepted and signed by Teachers’ Union, Principals’ Union, School Management, various government departments, etc. In the due course of time, we expect this policy may widely spread and accepted across the state.

In association with Dream-A-Dream (an organisation based in Bangaluru), Shaishav held 4 day residential training on Life Skills with Balsena’s council and active members in October end at an outskirts of Bhavnagar. Many workshops, cultural program, group discussions and plays were conducted to enlighten the children on various life skills such as Leadership, Creativity, Effective Communication, Relationship Building and Decision Making. Children actively participated and independently conducted many workshops, activities and instant plays. They also went through the activity of “River of Life” and “Dream Tree”, where they could responsively react and expressed their challenges in life and their aspiration to fulfil their dreams.

Few of our major donors such as Child Reach International (UK), Paul Hamlyn Foundation (UK) and Stitching Charity Fund Rijsholt (The Netherlands) visited Shaishav and reviewed our activities and performance during first half of the year April 2014 to September 2014. The reviews were very exhaustive and satisfying. It highlighted our commitments and suggested guidelines to strengthen our efforts in future.

Thank You

Child Right week celebration rally by children
Child Right week celebration rally by children
Child Right week yatra closing ceremony & seminar
Child Right week yatra closing ceremony & seminar
Life Skill training of Balsena Children
Life Skill training of Balsena Children

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Organization

Project Leader

Parul Sheth

Executive Director
Bhavnagar, Gujarat India

Where is this project located?

Map of Transform the Lives of Children in Gujarat, India