KOCHI: In 2014, a group of like-minded people got together to form a Facebook group ‘Swarakshaforkids’, against the rising incidence of child abuse. “There was this sudden sprout of abuse against children. Having kids myself, it worried me a lot which is why I decided to start a Facebook page to address the need to defend our children against such perpetrators,” says Anu Suraj, the founder of the group which was registered as a Trust in 2016.
The response was immediate and there was a flood of messages from lawyers, doctors, psychologists, housewives and people in the IT industry. “This gave me the encouragement to push forward,” she said.
Soon, a group of like-minded women joined the group.
They were also meeting up on most days. “It was at this time that a lot of people started offering us their help,” said Anu. “There were people sending us kits and modules regarding child-abuse. We started creating our workshops based on this.”
Swaraksha also sought the help of the Kochi City Police who helped them with the workshops. “They, especially DCP Yathish Chandra GH, provided us with the data and told us their stories. We used these stories to explain to children about instances of abuse that they should be careful of,” said Sajina Arun, lawyer.
Initially, the team only focused on private schools. However, the Police department insisted they take classes at government schools. “Soon, our volunteers will reach out to these schools,” she added.
Apart from demo classes, stories and interactions, Swaraksha also focuses on imparting self defense lessons to the children. For this, they have associated with an instructor from the Martial Art Academy in Tripunithura.
Activities at special schools
From the data available, they were surprised to note a number of abuse cases among differently-abled children. “We sought the help of psychologists and special school instructors who helped us. Our member Ramya Durairaj researched on the needs of special kids for a year before we implemented a module for them. We used placards and picture-oriented stories to sensitise them on the issue,” she said.
In the wake of the recent incidents of physical and sexual abuse being reported in playschools, Swaraksha is now focusing in that area too. “We tell children about how to be careful about people around them. But mostly, these sessions are intended for the ayahs where we tell them specifically to handle the children with care,” she said.