Fellow: Tania Fernandes Echaporia
Grant Year: 2019
Location: Satara District, Maharashtra state, India
Organization: Red Dot Foundation
Project title: Bal Suraksha
Project summary: Bal Suraksha aims to protect children, especially girls, from sexual abuse in schools by advocating for the effective implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (2012) in 20 schools in the Satara district. In India, 53% of children face sexual abuse and 50% of abusers are people known to the child or in a position of trust or responsibility (findings from a government-commissioned survey). The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act is a law to protect children from offenses of sexual assault, sexual harassment, pornography and other forms of sexual abuse, but it remains poorly implemented and unknown to most, especially to those responsible for its application and those in need of its protection. The Red Dot Foundation will build the leadership and advocacy capacity of girls 14-18 years of age to empower them as “Know Your Rights Educators.” These girl leaders will be involved in the design, monitoring, and evaluation of the project and act as agents of change to prevent and reduce child sexual violence and engage more youth on the issue. They will conduct regular workshops, lead advocacy campaigns, help educational institutions build redressal mechanisms, and facilitate discussions with local authorities, including police, local child protection agencies, and the village sarpanch to strengthen the implementation of the law. They will ensure systems like the Child Helpline are operational and that there is a robust Victim Protection Program.
The Red Dot Foundation and girl leaders will advocate with District Women and Child Development Minister and Minister for School Education of Maharashtra to ensure effective implementation of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, including the responsiveness of the Child Helpline number, the existence and functioning of the Child Welfare Committee, and the establishment of redressal mechanisms in schools. They will ensure the safety, security, and protection of children in 20 schools and colleges in the Satara District, Maharashtra to directly benefit 20,000 children, while also serving as a model to be implemented in all schools across the state.