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''Surakshita'' - a Campaign to Prevent Sexual Abuse and Trafficking of Adolescent Girls

By Thomas Pallithanam
Dr Tripurana Venkatratnam, the H`ble Chairperson of Women`s Commission of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana Releasing the Posters at the Inauguration of the ``Surakshita`` Campaign (top); and flagging off the campaign (bottom).
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Hyderabad, Nov. 15. ''Surakshita'' a campaign to prevent Sexual Abuse and Trafficking of Adolescent Girls was flaggd off on 13 November, the Day of Disadvantaged Children, by the Chairperson of the Women's Commission Andhra Pradesh and Telengana States Dr Tripurana Venkatratnam. The occasion marked the commencement of Child Rights Week being celebrated by People's Action For Rural Awakening (PARA) as part of the many events to mark the 25th year of Declaration of Child Rights Convention (CRC). PARA has planned 500 two-hour workshops in selected schools and colleges across the two States of Andhra Pradesh and Telengana as part of the awareness programme.
With 430 million children, India accounts for one out of every 5 children in the world. With one child under five dying every 19 seconds, 50% of those surviving undernourished, 43% underweight, 50% of children hardly able to complete primary education, the picture is not so rosy as  the jubilee of CRC is being celebrated.

And when we realise that 53% of children have suffered sexual abuse of one kind or the other as they grow up into adulthood, carrying with them the trauma which will then impact their lives and lives of many others with whom they relate, we cannot but be overwhelmed by the challenge before us if we need to make real the rights enshrined in the CRC.

It is to take up this challenge, albeit in a limited way, that People's Action For Rural Awakening, the Social Action Initiative of Don Bosco Ravulapalem initiated ''Surakshita'' Campaign.  The campaign was flagged off after the inaugural session at the East Godavari Collectorate graced by the presence of Dr Venkatratnam, senior officials from the Police and Women Development and Child Welfare Department and  a host of eminent citizens of the District.  

''Surakshita'' will address the problem of adolescent sexual abuse and trafficking by creating awareness among the adolescent girls through a two hour workshop with multimedia and interactive sessions. This interactive workshop will help the girls to understand sexuality, pre-empt attempts of sex predators in  whatever guise they might try to entrap the adolescent. It will also give them information regarding the laws and policies that protect them and redress their grievances. It is alarming to realize that 39.4% of those who finally end up as sex workers have been trapped into it between the age 12 and 15. This percentage goes up to 65% if we include those below 20.

As part of the campaign 5 posters regarding sexual abuse, trafficking, ragging, and a handbook for ready reference regarding laws and policies for protection of adolescent girls and women were released.  Ms Sesha Ratnam, Gender Desk Coordinator and  Mr Ameer Pasha of PARA, along with Mr Venkatrao, the District Child Protection Officer coordinated the programme. After the inaugural function the participants, around 350 consisting of school children and college students, accompanied by ICDS workers took out a candle light procession to the Town Centre headed by Dr Venkatratnam. One of the highlights of the programme was the impressive presence of the tribal students from the human rights clubs in Paderu who enthralled the gathering by their Dhimsa dance.  

The human rights clubs being set up in schools will anchor this awareness campaign with the members making the arrangements for the workshops in their respective schools.  

It's a long road to a sexual abuse and trafficking free East Godavari, a district that has an infamous record of being a veritable hub of human sex trafficking. With human rights clubs in schools as well as community vigilance groups and Balika Sanghams (girls clubs) in villages in place, we intend to walk the distance.

Ms Margaret Chu of Sieh Family Charity Trust, Massachusetts and Don Bosco Mondo are supporting these efforts.


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