The conversation surrounding child sexual abuse is often ignored. Although if we look at the latest statistics, it is quite disturbing to know that the magnitude of children being sexually abused is quite high. What's more horrifying is that in the majority of such cases, the abuser is known to the child. This puts the safety of children, even in familiar surroundings, in question and also suggests the importance of spreading awareness about it in the present day. A youth-led not-for-profit organization based out of Delhi named- 'Our Voix' is working on the issue of preventing child sexual abuse and has been successfully able to break the silence around this topic with its workshops or campaigns. The main vision behind this organization is to make childhood safe for children and in being the voice for the young ones.
How It Started- Our Voix
While being a law student in London and doing her internship at NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), Megha Bhatia came across ground-breaking numbers with her research on child sexual abuse and understood the gravity of the issue. This initiated the idea of starting an organization in India which works on this issue. Started in 2018 by her, Our Voix has successfully conducted workshops in more than 60 schools including private as well as government ones and thousands of children have benefitted themselves from it. They believe that it is highly crucial to teach parents, school teachers and other community members as well on how to react if a child discloses any incident of abuse to them.
How It Works- Workshops And Comics
For making children aware about their bodies, Our Voix uses comic books which helps them to discern difference in good touch or bad touch and talks about other important things to prevent any abuse which might happen to them. By the use of comic characters, they ensure that the message reaches out to them in a child-friendly manner. In their workshops for primary school children, they teach the children about the topic through a unique concept of 'Powers' and also with the help of a mascot 'Super Buddy'. They use role-play, games, activities or poems in the workshops. The entire idea behind this is to make them understand the concept of sexual abuse in a fun way or lighter way.
Speaking with The Logical Indian, the founder of Our Voix, Megha Bhatia, shares, "There is a huge increase in such the cases of child sexual abuse and we are talking in hushed tones about it especially when we're with kids. Given the increasing numbers, we need to provide them a safe platform where they could come and talk to us about such matters. In addition to this, children lack the right information to identify abuse and speak up against it. It is important to teach them on how to identify abuse and resist it. Such incidents could be preventable, in many cases, if we teach them to say NO."
Impact So Far- Working On Ground Zero
The comic book introduced by this organization has been appreciated across many platforms for giving knowledge to the young ones about their rights in an engaging manner. However, the best part about these books is that it includes real-life stories from other children as well, so as to make it relatable. Till now, they have launched these books in 61 libraries in Jharkhand and 11 libraries in Maharashtra. At present, it could be found in school libraries in more than 8 states in India. Apart from this, it conducts workshops at colleges to train youth leaders and also for teachers to empower them to handle disclosure. In addition to this, they have started their workshops at corporate organizations as well, in order to empower them to start the conversation with their little ones.
Talking about her journey as an educator, Megha Bhatia shares with The Logical Indian, "I have observed that children lack basic information about their body parts. They lack a platform where they can share about any incident of abuse happening to them without getting blamed or ashamed for the same. Initially, they were hesitant to even name their private parts. However, after the workshop they were more comfortable in sharing about the same. They don't know the vocabulary of reporting or sharing any abuse which would have happened to them. It is highly crucial to make them understand who should be trusted for talking about such sensitive issues."
In establishing themselves as a trusted organization, they have faced a lot of challenges with schools, teachers and stakeholders while convincing them for the need of these workshops. Even most teachers working at the grass-root level lack the information regarding POCSO (Protection of Children against Sexual Offences) Act and they might fail to report cases of child sexual abuse. The law which came into being in 2012, ensures a strict legal framework for offences of child safety rights. However, there is not enough training being given to teachers, principals and other important institutions about it. The founder of this not-for-profit organization shared that many school principals were also hesitant initially for conducting these workshops in their premises. The absence of child-friendly content online on this issue as well as lack of training videos in a regional language is another obstacle which they have faced so far.
"One of the schools told us not to share the message with boys and only share it with girls as boys are not abused and we found it shocking. Another orphanage asked us not to share the helpline number with children. Moreover, there are some corporations also who are hesitant to take up such projects because it's a taboo topic in our society. They ignore the fact that sex education or body safety education is not a luxury for children but rather it's their basic human right," concludes Megha Bhatia while talking with The Logical Indian.
The Logical Indian appreciates the efforts of Our Voix for raising awareness regarding prevention of child sexual abuse and ensuring that children are also aware of their basic rights.