KURNOOL: Since inception, Childline helpline - 1098 has rendered several services in restoring children of their precious childhood, preventing child marriages and most importantly putting smiles back on their faces. Leading the torch of hope with Childline services in Kurnool, is Awakening Peoples Action for Rural Development (APARD), an NGO headed by G Thirupati Reddy has adopted Childline 1098 to assist children in need. ‘1098’ is a phone number that spells hope for millions of children across India.
It is a 24-hour, 365 days a year, free, emergency phone service for children in need of aid and assistance. Once the helpline intervenes to assist a child, it works with multiple stakeholders such as police authorities, child protection boards, social workers and counsellors. From response to intervention, children’s consent and participation is an important component of this process. Twelve members including district Coordinator, Counsellor, seven team members and three volunteers have been working in the Kurnool unit.
Recalling one of the recent incidents, Kurnool district project of Childline, Coordinator D Sunkanna said they received a call regarding a child marriage from Peapally mandal in Kurnool district. An intermediate first year girl, 15 years old, studying at KGBV residential school had reached out to the helpline. She informed the volunteer that her parents were forcibly getting her married and added that she wanted to continue with her studies.
Based on the information, a Kurnool team of Childline informed the departments concerned and rushed to the girl’s residence along with police, ICPS, ICDS, Sachivalayam staff, and KGBV teachers. “The team interacted with the child and her family. During the interaction it was confirmed that due to the Covid pandemic, lack of knowledge and a poor economic back ground of the family, the parents had decided to marry their daughter against her wish,” Counsellor KN Hushaini, who is working with the team said. The girl then called her teachers to help her stop the marriage. She also requested them to help her continue studies, he added.
The counsellor said, after the team interacted with the family, the girl and her parents were counselled and the consequences of child marriage were explained to them. The groom and his family were counselled as well. Hushaini noted, “At the time of the intervention, the 15-year-old was going through a mix of feelings. But, as soon as the intervention was over, she was happy and relaxed.”
Kurnool project coordinator for Childline, D Sunkanna said, “To curb child marriages, government had passed the Child Marriage Restraint Act. It states that any individual who conducts child marriage shall be punished with simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and shall also be liable to a fine unless she/he has a reason to believe that it was not a child-marriage.”
CHILD MARRIAGE IS A PUNISHABLE OFFENCE
Child Marriage Restraint Act states that any individual who conducts child marriage shall be punished with simple imprisonment which may extend to three months and shall be liable to a fine unless she/he has a reason to believe that it was not child-marriage.