Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a real problem in many countries in the world, and even in India, the numbers have been alarming. In recent times, due to awareness, more information, and accessible avenues to raise an alarm, more cases are now coming to light. The unfortunate reality is, however, that reported cases are still far lower than the actual number of CSA cases that may exist in the country today. Social taboo, fear of retribution, and sometimes even social stratification continue to play major roles in the lack of reporting that we see in the country. In fact, 50% of CSA crimes are committed by people known to the victim. The bottom line is simple: children deserve to be protected and safeguarded.
It is with this objective that Project Masoom was undertaken as a key initiative by CII Young Indians (Yi), in 2015 taking ahead the Yi maxim of ‘We Can! We Will!’. Masoom in Hindi means innocence. That’s what this project is all about. Preserving and protecting the innocence of children.
The singular aim is to educate the Indian society, including children, parents, teachers and caregivers, to the massive problem at hand. For such a truly heinous act to be wiped out, we need collective action to make a difference. Yi Project Masoom works in partnership with the Childline India Foundation and Arpan and many other noted NGOs to spread awareness about Child Safety. Yi also partnered with WeProtect Global Alliance, an international movement dedicated to national and global action to end the sexual exploitation of children online; and UNICEF to strengthen Project Masoom in the areas of creating thought leadership, knowledge and capacity building.
Who are you talking to and how are you speaking to them?
Yi’s Project Masoom has already identified that it is crucial that children, and all of their support systems be equally called in to participate in the conversation around CSA. This is to be achieved by fulfilling certain core objectives of building awareness, action and advocacy around CSA
In a country as diverse as India, there is a need to be truly inclusive, as well as, the message must be equally accessible. True inclusion comes from actually involving every person possible. This led to an analysis of how the message is delivered through Project Masoom which is constantly evolving to ensure maximum impact.
To drive inclusivity, initiatives such as braille packs and developing vernacular translation for the content to drive rural reach is being undertaken. To bridge awareness and accessibility, Yi is also developing session videos for those with hearing impairments. In fact, during the pandemic, Yi has doubled its efforts to create the educational videos and content that can be rolled out as soon as it’s safe. Masoom work is thus inclusive not only in terms of the people it’s trying to educate, but also in terms of the many forms that the content manifests into.
The project also worked hard to bring diverse voices into the conversation. The Masoom Summit conducted in November 2020 was one such example. It engaged stakeholders across demographics; including sessions that addressed the youth and encouraged child participation. The universality of the problem was also highlighted with participants from over 7 countries calling for collaborative action to end CSA.
What have we learnt?
There is a lot of hidden danger lurking in the world. Especially when it comes to children, attackers use fear and guilt to keep their actions hidden. It may seem like the most natural thing to yell out or ask for help, but the trauma that CSA causes is unimaginable; there’s also the element of taboo that society still holds on to.
However, children are strong and determined. With more education, growing support and increasing voices raised, there will be massive change. What’s worked for us to start and drive conversations is primarily the importance of talking to children. It is our aim to create awareness and empower them to rise above fear and raise their voices.
Where are we headed?
As an organization, Yi is moving progressively forward from Awareness to Action to Advocacy. To deliver success, Yi engages with multiple stakeholders including government, administration, and organizations across spheres. Yi has realized the value of a multi-partner approach to grow the sphere of influence. Expanding activities from rural to district, and from state to centre is crucial to large scale, lasting impact.
What started as an initiative by an individual a few years ago has turned into a massive movement with more than 2800 activities, impacting millions of lives. In this entire experience, what resonates is that fact that all of us, as individuals, as society, as organizations whatever role we occupy, have to step up. Each one can and must contribute towards eliminating this evil. Create awareness, take actionable steps, or advocate child protection, do whatever you can, but do #PlayYourPart.