Save the Children (also known as Bal Raksha Bharat) is a known champion of child protection. Over the years, Save the Children India has implemented a number of projects tackling different manifestations of violence against children: trafficking, child marriage, child labour, sexual abuse and exploitation. Our work in this area revolves around prevention and timely response, focusing on developing robust child protection systems, strengthening them at the community-, state- and national levels and monitoring them to understand their efficacy. Save the Children has a proven track record in India of both delivering and influencing key policy decisions, such as the legislation on Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012), Juvenile Justice Act and amendment of Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act.
Save the Children’s core areas of work under Child Protection include:
Our Vision: End all forms of Violence, Abuse and Exploitation of Children in India
Our Reach(March 2016- April 2022): 2.7 Million
We have specific programme interventions on child protection in 11 states reaching out to around three million children.
Key Child Protection Interventions
Save the Children’s core areas of work under Child Protection include interventions around Children in Street Situations, Child Protection System Strengthening by workforce development through a competency-based training at the local and sub-national levels, ending abuse and exploitation of children, promoting psychosocial well-being through mental health and psychosocial support and online safety of children.
Initiatives on Children in Street Situations (CISS)
Our interventions for CISS are aimed at generating evidence towards the magnitude of the problems, policy analysis and finding suitable solutions to address the issue holistically. We have been working to improve the lives of children in street situations since 2009. In 2012 we came out with publication named ‘Surviving on the Streets- one of first census survey study on street children done by Save the Children. The study showed that that there were about 51000 street children in Delhi alone. Subsequently, we conducted a census and survey of Street Children in five cities of India and found that there were nearly 85,000 children on the streets without a valid identity, place of shelter, proper education and health facilities.
Another hallmark of our work in this area is the collaboratively developing with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), a Standard Operating Procedure for Care and Protection of Children in Street Situations. The SOP was officially released by the then Minister of Woman and Child development Smt. Maneka Gandhi. The SOP has been rolled out in 9 states of India with relevant stakeholders forming steering groups to monitor the implementation of the SOP.
In 2018, we set out with the mission of providing 2 lakh children in street situations with an identify document and capacitating government stakeholders responsible for protecting their rights and wellbeing in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra. Furthermore, recognizing the role of the public in improving these children’s wellbeing, we formed partnerships with community-based organizations, influencers and media houses to kick off a campaign with the objective of generating awareness on the plight of these children one comes across every day.
In 2020, basis our experience of implementing the SOP in states, Save the Children in collaboration with NCPCR revised the existing SOP to cater to needs of CISS through family strengthening approach. The Supreme court of India took cognizance of the SOP 2.0 and directed states to ensure its effective implementation.
Strengthening Child Protection System in India
In 2013 when the ambitious Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) programme was rolled out across the states, Save the Children supported Women and Child Development Departments to capacitate the newly inducted staff who were from different backgrounds. With this aim, a Competency Based Training (CBT) programme was launched for training of District level functionaries of ICPS.
Services provided by the cadre included awareness generation, psycho-social counseling, access to education/health services, referral to institutional care and facilitating linkages with government sponsored social protection schemes. The initiative, appreciated and acknowledged by government duty-bearers, improved response time for addressing concerns, boosted community cohesiveness, provided employment opportunities for women, and promoted child-friendly and gender-sensitive practices while addressing protection risks.
Interventions to Fight Child Marriage
The National Plan of Action, 2016 by the Ministry of Women & Child Development seeks to end child marriage. Furthering the Ministry’s mission and vision, we implemented a programme, ‘Marriage: No Child’s Play’ from 2016 to 2020 in the state of Rajasthan. This programme was implemented through an MoU with the Directorate of Women Empowerment, Women and Child Development Department, Government of Rajasthan.
We collaborated with the Government of Rajasthan to extend technical support for the development of State Strategy and Action Plan on Child Marriage and support its implementation in 45 villages of two districts (Tonk and Jodhpur). Through this initiative, we reached 5,864 adolescent girls, helping curb the incidence of child marriage. Numerous villages in the intervention areas were declared child marriage-free. This led to replication of the project in two other districts of the state: Banswara and Dungrapur.
Addressing Child Labour
We are implementing a project, ‘Work: No Child’s Business’ in the states of Bihar, Delhi and Rajasthan since June 2019 to support the ongoing work of Government to address the issue of child labour. In Delhi, we are working with children in the garment industry in two districts, namely; East and South East Delhi. In Bihar, we are working with children engaged in domestic work, agricultural labour and other forms of work in six districts: Araria, Gaya, East Champaran, Kishanganj, Nalanda and Sitamarhi. As part of this initiative, we are working for the Empowerment of Children to pursue quality education and (future) employability within a supportive family and community environment; Increased enrolment and retention in quality formal education or if relevant, bridge schooling and improved access to youth employment, and collaborating with Government to support in enforcing relevant child-rights based laws and implement policies on child labour, education, youth economic empowerment and social security
Through the initiative, 3318 children (6-14 years) have been enrolled in formal schools and have 407 youth and adults in the age group of 18-24 years have been enrolled for various vocational training courses like Beauty and Wellness, Retail and Sales, Hospitality, General Duty Assistant, Digital Marketing, Assistant Electrician, Hospital Front Desk Executive and Food and Beverages. We are also building capacities of Child Protection Committees, in close collaboration with the District Child Protection Units (DCPU) in the two intervention states of Delhi and Bihar. These capacity augmentation programs are aimed at ensuring the communities to discuss and take-up issues related to child protection in their areas. In 2021, we collaborated with the Department of Labour, Government of Rajasthan for a joint collaborative campaign on anti-child labour. This joint collaborative campaign had series of activities like 42 days anti-Child labour campaign, releasing of anti-Child labour song and child labour research report, street play on anti-Child labour, installation of hoardings on anti- child labour.
Promoting Psycho-Social Wellbeing of Children
The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in heightened exposure of children to risks including neglect, abandonment, violence and exploitation. Save the Children has been working on safeguarding the physical and emotional well-being of children through Risk Communication and Community Engagement. Child friendly materials/resources were developed and disseminated through audio visual, mass media (radio/cable TV), and traditional paper-based media. We also set up (tele) counselling services with the support of trained / professional counsellors to capacitate protection workforce to provide Psychosocial First Aid at the community level and pro, and link children and young people reporting Mental Health issues to helplines, specialized institutes and/or other referral services.
1.1.1 Enabling Online Safety of Children
Online child safety has garnered due attention in recent years with increasing access to Internet, especially in the post pandemic era. Efforts by the Indian Government to ensure online child safety have been commendable. Save the Children India is implementing a project since 2021 to support the ongoing work of the government on online safety for children in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The project has been implemented jointly in collaboration and consultation with the state government and select NGOs and private organizations working on the issue of cyber security. As part of the intervention, 586 teachers have been trained on the online safety module and they in turn have trained more than 10,000 children on how to be safe when online.