Sakshi, a Delhi-based non-profit organisation that works to protect the rights of women and children, through its Rakshin Project, an initiative in partnership with the directorate of NSS, Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, launched its pilot phase in March to empower and educate NSS Volunteers across the country to prevent, prohibit and resolve gender-based violence with a focus on Child Sexual Abuse. On September 26, 31 Rakshin Champions, (NSS Volunteers) from seven colleges, selected from 2500 students across 25 colleges in Tamil Nadu, were awarded for successful completion of the Rakshin Fellowship (Level 2).
The online event was graced by the presence of all the stakeholders: the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, the educational institutes, the funding partners, participating students and their families. The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Amerandra Kumar Dubey, a member of the Central Administrative Tribunal and former secretary of the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports who had issued the directions to Sakshi in 2018. The chief guests were Rakesh Kumar, chairman and MD of NLC India Limited and Asit Singh, joint secretary, Department of Youth Affairs, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Govt. Of India.
The Rakshin Project has three pillars: The Rakshin Fellowship for Education and Skill Building, Resolution Mechanisms for Cultivating Resilience and Sustained Engagement for norming preventive actions. Recognizing that violence begins at home, the Rakshin Project is dedicated to addressing Child Sexual Abuse within the context of the home and the community. Through the Rakshin Fellowship, the NSS volunteers are educated about the multiple facets of prevention of child sexual abuse as they are equipped to become Rakshins — the preventers of Child Sexual Abuse.
In her welcome address, Dr. Jayashree AG, Head-Tamil Nadu, The Rakshin Project by Sakshi, spoke about the uniquely designed Rakshin Fellowship Programme, with its five levels, 12 certificates, and 18 modules, spread over two years.
The participating students and their families highlighted their experience and learnings and shared ‘how through the comprehensive modules, questionnaires, surveys, focused group discussions and tasks for peer and community engagement, they had for the first time had conversations amongst the family members and friends, analysing gender-based violence. How they practiced the tools for de-escalating conflict in their real-life scenarios, and how again for the first time they understood the relationship between consent, NO, constitutional right to equality and child sexual abuse. They shared how they had informed their peers on the issues of Child Sexual Abuse, and built a network of people within the family to address the issue of Child Sexual Abuse, if an instance of such were to occur.
Dr Aditi Kishore, Head South India, The Rakshin Project by Sakshi, elaborated the critical criteria for selection of the volunteers into The Rakshin Fellowship Programme, emphasising that to be a Rakshin, the student has to be prepared to “primarily build one’s own self – breaking the barriers of silence, shame, stigma and denial and speaking the right language”.
The students selected for this round were from seven colleges in Tamil Nadu – Guru Nanak College, National Engineering College, Madras Institute of Technology, SRM Easwari Engineering College, Kamraj College of Engineering & Technology, Annamalai University and Vellore Institute of Technology.
The NSS programe officer from Vellore Institute of Technology Chennai, Dr. Balamurugan was explicit in his affirmation of the programme relevance and importance. “Sakshi is doing a wonderful job and it is very important because there is a need in creating awareness among students as well as the public. I urge the NSS directorate to include awareness against child sexual abuse as one of the key activities and focus areas of the NSS.”
In his special address, Singh reaffirmed the Ministry’s focus on empowering the youth in this movement to eradicate child sexual abuse.
So far, The Rakshin Project has expanded its footprint in 185 colleges across all the states in the country, and has equipped over 12,000 NSS volunteers during the peak phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 25 colleges in Tamil Nadu have been supported through CSR by NLC India Limited. In his special address, Rakesh Kumar, chairman-MD, NLC India Limited, spoke about the need to address safety and security of children above all else.
Dr. AK Dubey, member, Central Administrative Tribunal and retd. secretary, youth affairs, Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Govt. of India, who had initiated this project under the Directorate of NSS, applauded the work done so far, “I would like to congratulate Sakshi for undertaking this task and carrying it out in such a way that it comes an example for others. A day should come when people should talk to a trained Rakshin and say ‘where do you get all this knowledge and these skills from? I also want it’ — that would be the day when we can say we have succeeded in our quest.”
Smita Bharti, executive director, Sakshi – a rights-based NGO, charted the next action for the Fellows, “After Each teach two, which we are certifying today, the next stage of The Rakshin Fellowship is Each Teach Ten, where the students, will be equipped to lead conversations around prevention of sexual violence, create safe spaces for disclosure, and secure the child in instances of abuse within their communities.” Summing up the sentiments of everyone present in the room, she said, “Through our collective action, we can dare to imagine a world where sexual violence against children will cease. Where the youth will be empowered to speak up and tackle inequalities that they see around them.”Corporate, News