The village watchdog committees would bridge gaps in implementing social welfare schemes at the grassroots level by involving panchayat presidents, grama sevikas and school teachers.

Bolstering action against child marriage and women-related crimes, including dowry harassment and domestic violence, the district administration would set up village watchdog committees in all villages and reactivate existing but dormant ones.

The village watchdog committees would bridge gaps in implementing social welfare schemes at the grassroots level by involving panchayat presidents, grama sevikas and school teachers. Folk arts like bommalattam, street plays and seminars would constitute an awareness campaign highlighting child, women and senior citizen protection issues and the laws governing them, said Collector Jayashree Muralidharan. She inaugurated the training session for better implementation of welfare measures organised by Department of Social Welfare for panchayat presidents, Junior Red Cross and N.S.S coordinators, NGOs and teachers.

Four primary issues

Speakers at the event, dwelt at length encapsulating provisions and procedures involved in four important acts - The Dowry Prohibition Act1961, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, and Child Marriage Prohibition act 2006.

The group discussion that ensued recommended various suggestions on spreading awareness and implementing the Acts.

Counselling for domestic violence

Nurturing a value system in schools that teaches students to respect women and treat them as equal citizens is the initial step to tackling domestic violence. Providing pre-marital counselling to couples, teaching girls to distinguish between good and bad touch, appointing counsellors in schools and colleges were suggested as pre-emptive measures. Parents need to accept domestic violence faced by daughters and support them. Approaching the district social welfare officer or organisations providing family counselling is a prerequisite before filing a police complaint.

Roping in SHGs

While ensuring education to all women is indispensable in preventing and redressing dowry harassment, self-help groups could be roped in to spread the message. Discussing the issue in value education classes in schools and printing anti-dowry maxims on textbook covers were also suggested. Earmarking an anti-dowry harassment week with competitions at various levels could enforce the message strongly.

PTA meetings to check child marriage

On the issue of child marriage, participants felt that though awareness among children has substantially increased, parents continued to remain ignorant. PTA meetings could turn into ideal platforms to discuss the Child Marriage Prohibition Act. Marriage halls must display penalty in violating the Act. Folk art programmes were mooted as the best mode to sensitise people to care for senior citizens.

A separate forum in schools and colleges was essential to take up cudgels for senior citizens.

District Social Welfare Officer Yashoda, District Childline coordinator Thiyagarajan, and SOCSEAD coordinator Albert Manoharan moderated the sessions.