Did you notice anything different on your way to office this morning?
If you work or live near the railway station, the Avanashi Flyover, Town Hall or on 100 feet road, you could not have missed the big hoarding.
They are not of saris, or jewellery, but of something grim that needs greater public awareness – child sexual abuse (CSA). November 19 is International Day on Prevention of Child Abuse, and Coimbatore wakes up to a harsh reminder that there is no getting away from CSA.
The hoarding with messages about CSA are an initiative of Coimbatore Collective. This is an association of NGOs and persons in Coimbatore associated with preventing child abuse in the city.
The organisation aims at creating awareness among parents, schools and the public in being more pro-active at preventing abuse. Clinical psychologists, paediatricians, social workers and counsellors make up the Collective, and they advise, support and guide teachers, children and parents who wish to seek help and information against abuse.
Says Arundathy Williams of Talitha Rescue and Rehabilitation Initiative (TRRI): “We as a society have lived for too long in denial of Child Sexual Abuse – it is only when we can accept the reality of this problem that we can talk about it, and it is only when we talk about it that we can find ways to resolve and find solutions to this problem.”
TRRI works at rehabilitating minor girls who have been abused and minor girls who live in groups that are in high risk of being abused, such as the children of commercial sex workers.
“The awareness campaign,” says Arundathy, “is a small step in this direction. Hopefully, it will lead to many more, which will make our society a safer and happier place for our children to grow up in.”
The Coimbatore Collective conducts awareness workshops for parents, teacher sand managements of schools that are interested.
Archana Dange, who actively campaigns against CSA, through her resource centre Anand Deep Enterprises and Eurokids, says: “The aim of the campaign is to create awareness about CSA among parents and teachers and schools. Preventing CSA involves very simple steps that we need to put into place. The idea is to bring the issue out in the open so that people speak about this to their children and don't feel embarrassed doing so. Awareness campaigns and workshops such as the ones we are holding teach children how to protect themselves. And now if they feel unsafe, they have somewhere to go. The matter has to be talked about.”
Archana expresses the hope that more and more schools and parents associations come forward to take up the matter immediately.
“Prevention is better than cure,” she says.
Education institutions such as Bishop Appasamy College and commercial establishments such as Mahaveers have generously allowed the use of their hoarding at prominent spaces in the city to promote awareness.
Other groups such as the Tirupur Round Table 116, Tirupur Ladies Circle 44, the combined ladies circle of Area 7, Coimbatore Penta Ladies Circle No.37 and Coimbatore Ladies Circle No. 11, EuroKids and Prem Communications have also actively promoted the venture.
Schools that are interested in becoming a part of this drive can contact Coimbatore Collective.
Information on CSA, educational material including posters, pamphlets, audio/video CDs, cartoon films, are also available with it for purchase.
These educational materials have been developed by Tulir, an NGO working in the field of prevention and healing child sexual abuse. For details call, 95666-88849/98940-40227.
Keywords: Child abuse