This Organisation From Kolkata Is Helping Children Of Sex Workers Live Respectable Lives
Child In Need Institute or CINI was founded in 1974 in Kolkata to treat malnourished and ill children, whose numbers were rampant in villages and slum areas, with an aim to combat high child mortality. They started working towards the root cause of malnutrition only to find that there are other areas of intervention that need dire attention.
Rooted in a myriad of social, economic and cultural causes, child malnutrition cannot be solved via a mere clinical solution. CINI sought to improve child health by tackling the vicious cycle of poverty, malnutrition, child education, child protection and cultural causes. Their primary idea was to address the determinants of child malnutrition, disease and death.
CINI, apart from addressing the root causes such as poverty, powerlessness, low status of women and inadequate health and sanitation practices, also deals with child protection. This is one area of intervention which has hardly been touched upon by organisations working at grassroots levels. Experience with poor communities taught CINI the multiplicity of problems children face. Often children drop out or never enrol in school, end up as child labour, being trafficked or married off early, or they even end up exploited and abused in different ways. These are the lives that CINI is trying to touch and bring about a positive impact.
CINI has a preventive approach and a curative approach. Preventive approach primarily focuses on setting up community-based safety nets mandating including nen-negotiable principles of participation and non-discrimination. The curative model primarily focuses on extending short-term institutional based support services for those children whose rights have been already violated.
CINI provides shelter homes for both boys and girls and also have dropped in centres, night centres for children from Sealdah Railway Station. However, the primary motive of curative approach is early restoration or repatriation as CINI strongly believes that institution is the last place and family is the best place for the child.
The Rambagan Project
In an email correspondence with The Logical Indian, Sreoshi Ghose from CINI recounted the following success story. “12-year-old Mala is a student of class four and she attends the evening centre of Rambagan, a red-light area. She lives in Rambagan, a red-light area with her mother, grandmother and maternal aunts. She discontinued her school after attending class three, citing reasons that she was engaged in daily household chores. Her relationship with her parents is estranged Mala was a sudden victim of sexual abuse. CINI CINI conducted a home visit and approached her, counselling support was extended. Dance movement therapy and art based sessions helped her to gradually release and reduce her trauma. Simultaneously her parents were counselled and were asked to support their child and not criticise and bully her. Her parents understood and started supporting Mala. Both CINI and the parents motivated her to continue her studies. Presently she has been re-enrolled in school and has also become a member of the children’s group.”
In recent times, many of the mothers/women in the red light area of Rambagan are not directly engaged as sex workers but are renting out rooms to carry on the trade. They are serving as Mashis (vernacular for aunts), and this being the only means to earn a living. The fathers continue as pimps and indulge in all forms of addiction. Domestic violence is perceived to be a normalised practice.
Children living in the red light area of Rambagan have no support system from the family or from the community. They lack trustworthy peers in their lives, who can both guide and men to them. They are neglected by their parents and there is a lack of trust and bonding between the two. Lack of awareness often compels them to take wrong decisions and puts them in risk situations which usually results in low self-worth.
Under the given backdrop CINI has been providing support in Rambagan for the last twenty-six years by
- Providing educational support to nearly 500 school and college going young children of the community with after school support to cope up with school curriculum. It also facilitates the process of linking the children with vocational training opportunities and health facilities. Intensive counselling both at the individual and group level is provided to them.
- Empowering the existing peer group and members of the children’s parliament to emerge as trustworthy friends in the life of every child living in the red light area of Rambagan.
- Intensive counselling both at the individual and group level is provided to the parents to bring about attitudinal and behavioural change towards their children.
There are quite a few role models from within the community, who are pursuing higher studies, some are providing after school support to the other community-based children and some of them are working as well. They inspire the next generation as serve as an immediate support system with the community.
Child Parliaments have been formed across community pockets of 10 wards in Kolkata by CINI. They are bestowed with the responsibility of voicing the problems related to protection, education, community environment persisting in their community pockets and impacting them. Their aim is to make the community child-friendly. CINI’s Children’s Parliament has been an interactive process that has stimulated thoughts of children and has provided them with a platform to identify, think, prioritise, voice and act.
A member of child parliament, 15 year-old, Devi (name changed) focused on the rampant sale of addictive substance outside their school premises and the adverse impact it was having on the children. Another 15 year-old Sushmita (name changed) spoke about eve teasing prevalent across all the vulnerable community of the 10 wards. These are brave children who have successfully voiced the problems of their communities. Child marriage was a cross cutting issue and a brave 17-year-old did not hesitate to raise her voice against child marriage in her community.
Sreoshi from CINI also communicated, “If we can strive to bring back the second generation sex workers to a different life path, we can bring about a positive change in the society. They are extremely marginalised and we must harbour a positive mind set to bring them in the main folds of the society.”
CINI is trying its best to rehabilitate these vulnerable children in a different life-path. The Logical Indian community applauds the endeavours taken by CINI in bringing about positive change in society. It also hopes that such positive changes can help alter our mindset as well.
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