If you took part in the protests that erupted across the nation when little Asifa from Kathua was raped and murdered, pat yourself on the back. You have a voice and you raised it.
But if you want to do more than shouting slogans, there are many ways you can get involved in protecting the rights of children.
Some of the main areas you can explore are:
- Government bodies: The central government and all state governments have a Department of Women and Child Development working on issues such as child safety, nutrition, adoption, among others. Every state also has a Child Rights Protection Commission, a Child Welfare Committee, and a Juvenile Justice Board.
- Law: As a lawyer, you can work directly on cases which are on child rights
- NGOs: There are several local and national NGOs working on the ground to improve child safety in schools, orphanages, and in their homes. Many even work with the government, lending their expertise to frame and implement new policies.
- Research: There are several think-tanks which work on studying government budgets and policies, including those related to children. Even NGOs which work on children’s issues have research teams to understand how well laws and schemes are being implemented on the ground.
When you are working with children, the best reward is knowing that you helped to make the world a safer space for them.
Edwina Pereira is the Executive Director of Bengaluru-based Child First Foundation but she started her career as a nurse. “After I finished my Masters in Nursing, I decided that I wanted to work in community health. I started working with an NGO but slowly I was drawn towards working with children,” she said.
Edwina’s personal vision is to see that all children are able to live to their full potential, happy, healthy, and safe. The foundation works on setting up measures in schools and child care homes to prevent accidents and incidents of abuse.
Besides making infrastructure less hazardous and setting up child protection committees, the foundation has also developed colouring books to teach young children how to identify and respond to bad touch.
What do you need to study?
Edwina said that NGOs prefer people with a background in subjects like Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, Education, or Child Development.
“But what they really look for is your interest to work in child rights because this is not a 9 to 5 kind of job. If there is an emergency case where a child is in trouble, you have to be available,” she said.
Implementing campaigns, designing awareness programmes for schools, teachers, children, raising funds, media outreach- these are just some of the many roles you could take up in an NGO.
Several organisations, especially international ones, also have an internal research team to study the effectiveness of their own campaigns and those of the government.
Children are to be seen and heard
Dr Niranjanaradhya V P has been working in the field of child rights for two decades now. He is a Senior Fellow and Programme Head at the Centre for Child and the Law at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bengaluru.
Niranjanaradhya started his career as a teacher educator in a BEd college but later moved to work on children’s issues.
“Children make up one-third of the country’s population but their rights have been neglected for years since they are not voters. Protecting the rights of children who don’t have a voice, especially children of marginalised communities has given me a lot of satisfaction,” he said.
A large part of his work is to study how government policies and laws related to children have been framed and to study their implementation. He frequently interacts with children, teachers, and government officials, even conducting programmes to educate people on child rights.
Even though the centre is part of a premier law college, the people working there are from a wide-range of disciplines, Nirajanaradhya said.
If working full-time in the field of child rights is beyond your scope, you can always volunteer at NGOs. Helping hands are always welcome!