The right to protection covers all forms of child exploitation and cruelty, arbitrary separation of children from their families and abuses in the criminal justice system. For MSS, child protection is about safeguarding children from any perceived or real danger or risk to their life, their personhood and their childhood. It is about reducing their vulnerabilities to any kind of harm, and protecting them from harmful situation. It is also about ensuring that no child falls out of the social security and safety net. For those who do, it is about providing the necessary care, protection and support required to bring them back inside the safety net. MSS identifies vulnerable children and protects them from exploitation and abuse, particularly surrounding child migration and trafficking.
Child Labour-Free Panchayats
One of the most important areas of focus is child labour and child migration, which is very common in the tribal belt of Southern Rajasthan where MSS works. In particular, children are migrating to the Bt Cotton fields in the neighbouring state of Gujarat. MSS has worked to eradicate child labour from the villages in which it operates, and one of the most important tools in doing so is involving local community institutions in the prevention of child labour. In this way, MSS has encouraged Panchayats to implement child labour-free zones covering the whole of each Panchayat.
Panchayat Level Child Protection Committees (PLCPC)
PLCPCs operate at the Panchayat Level, helping to ensure that the rights of children are protected, particularly in terms of education and child labour. The committees are led by the Panchayat’s Sarpanch, and other members include Ward Panch’s, School Principals, School Management Committee Presidents, Anganwadi workers, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives, the Child Welfare Officer within the local Police Station, a member of the government District Child Protection Unit, two child representatives and two community members. The roles and responsibilities of PLCPCs are to:
- Identify non-school going children in their respectivePanchayat
and return these children to school
- Follow up on enrolled children to ensure that they are attending school regularly
- Stop migration of children, particularly to Gujarat
- Assist Gram Panchayatsto link children with suitable social security schemes
- Ensure that schools provide protective environments for children, where they can grow and express their views freely
- Coordinate with other departments and provide necessary support to children and schools
- Assist in motivating parents to send their children to school
- Develop an action plan on children’s issues
MSS provides PLCPCs with regular training and capacity building to ensure that they are able to conduct their responsibilities. As a result, there have been many cases of communities preventing children in their Panchayat from entering child labour, and many children have been called from Gujarat and enrolled into schools.
Block Level Child Protection Committees (BLCPC)
- Child Protection Committees are also implemented at the block-level, where they are chaired by the block or ward-level elected representative, with the Block Development Officer working as member secretary. The role of BLCPCs includes:Ensuring the effective running of PLCPCs
- Ensuring that community members are aware of the services provided to children by various government departments
- Organising training for service providers from various government departments on child protection and child rights at the community level
- Conducting meetings of PLCPCs on at least a quarterly basis and strengthening child protection monitoring
Taking a proactive role in addressing early marriage, child trafficking etc. with the local administration and police
- Communicating with the Child Welfare Committee and Juvenile Justice Board
MSS has observed that despite PRI representatives being vital in the creation of a protective environment for children, there are no materials or training provided to these individuals on creating a child-friendly environment. As such, MSS has developed a module to strengthen the capacity of PRI members on various children’s issues, helping PRI members to better understand the issues facing children and their role in improving the lives of children.
In addition, MSS has worked with Panchayat Standing Committees to ensure that they have a strong understanding of the needs of children. MSS has organised a large number of workshops for Panchayat Standing Committees on Education and Social Protection. These workshops are designed to inform Standing Committee members on the current condition of schools in their areas. In addition, enrolment of non-school going children and retention of students is discussed, and members are reminded of the general roles and responsibilities of the Standing Committees. Similar meetings are also held with Gram Sabhas, where members prepare an action plan for the enrolment of non-school going children and members raise child-related issues that they have witnessed in their communities.
Bal Watchdog Committees
Bal Watchdog Committees are made up of local children and work to prevent children being taken to work in the Bt Cotton fields of Gujarat. Committees set up check posts in their villages and report any cases of child labour to the Police or MSS, so that they can take action and return the child to their family. Committee members share issues related to child trafficking and children that had migrated in the past also share their experiences. Discussions are held on strategies to reduce child migration, including identifying the mate that trafficked children and meeting with parents to ensure that they understand the dangers and lost opportunities involved in child labour.
Bal Watchdog Committees Campaigns
MSS regularly organises campaigns to support issues such as child rights, child protection and ending child labour. This includes signature campaigns, foot marches, street plays and rallies. Bal Panchayat members also conduct door-to-door campaigns to speak with parents and their children on these issues.