BENGALURU: Bengalureans are joining hands in a fight against child abuse with a year-old campaign, titled Leher, which involves the making and sharing of revelatory one-minute videos.
Calling it a truly democratic project, Harish Bhuvan, master trainer of Faith Foundation, says, “The scripts for the films are by the people, and they are for people to be aware of this issue.”
The organising team had invited the general public to come up with stories for the films, and many shared their own personal experiences. The contributors included sportsmen, artistes and doctors.
Leher is driven by Young Indians Bengaluru Chapter, a part of Confederation of Indian Industry, in collaboration with Faith Foundation and Storywallahs. Dr Kaushik Murali, Chair - Young Indians Bengaluru (CII), says the organisation works towards nation building. “Last year, we started a project Masoom, against child sexual abuse. We went to schools and other educational institutions and gave lessons on safe and unsafe touch using storyboards,” says Murali. “But do they remember the lessons? Also, it is not just children but parents and teachers should also be made aware of the issue.”
The 60-second videos will address various aspects of child sexual abuse. Harish says, “We just had a random idea... to say it with films and run one every week throughout the year. So, we needed 52 scripts.”
The team decided to crowdsource them, says Ameen Haque, founder of Storywallahs. “We posted online and invited all to write scripts,” he says.
The participants were given situations to help them to come up with scripts. Ameen adds, “When we write scripts, we usually write about strangers, but most abuses are perpetrated by known people. All abuses need not necessarily be from the opposite gender...where do children spend most of their time, how to respond in such situations and what to do when something like this happens. The focus is on child sexual abuse but it also includes peripheral issues like bullying, access to pornography and body shaming that can lead to sexual abuse.”
The team received about 72 scripts. Harish says, “There were people from different walks of lives including filmmakers, doctors, basketball players and also victims of abuse who wrote their own stories anonymously.”
There were subject matter experts who guided the participants on the sensitivity of the issue while writing the scripts, says Harish.Ameen says that the most important thing is to have conversations about it. “One can’t turn it to a blindspot and become immune to such an issue.”
‘The Ripple Effect’
The project is called Leher, Leher meaning waves. “The idea is to create a ripple effect leading to a larger influence,” says Ameen.Since Indians spend most of their time on social media, they decided to put across the message using this medium. Some scripts also include social media in their narrative. Dr Kaushik says, “Some ideas include a chat on Facebook between a child and an older man where the man claims to be his uncle and asks if he remembers meeting him at a party.” The films will be screened starting this October.
Most instances among migrants
Divya Narayanappa, District Child Protection officer, says that they have also joined hands with them to create a larger impact. “We can’t reach everyone because we are also short of staff. So, we decided to join hands with YI. I suggested that we should take this medium offline as well because most abuses happen in the migration sector, in the labour class.”
She shares that 25 to 30 per cent children who are abused are from the ‘labour class’. “Other children spend most time in schools. But these children are left on their own. Their parents go to work thinking that their neighbours are good and their children are safe. Even in the recent case, where a 5-year-old girl was sexually abused by her neighbour, her mother refuses to accept that he could have done it.”