Making The World Free of Child Sexual Abuse, Arpan Mumbai
Updated: Aug 4, 2019
Arpan is a Mumbai based NGO aiming to create a world free of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). It conducts Personal Safety Education (PSE) for children, their parents, teachers and adults around them. These free education programs are conducted over 4-6 days and are largely imparted in schools or communities associated with children.
Towards Freedom from Child Sexual Abuse
A Study on Child AbuseINDIA 2007 conducted by Ministry of Women and Child Development (GoI) broke the silence around child abuse in the country. Some of the important facts collated from this study are as follows: “42% of India's total population comprises of children i.e., four out of every ten persons” “Based on a sample survey conducted on a group of children belonging to different categories an alarming 53.22% children have faced one or more forms of sexual abuse that included severe and other forms. Among them, 52.94% were boys and 47.06% girls”
The subject of child sexual abuse remains a taboo in India. Parents do not speak to children about sexuality as well as physical and emotional changes that take place during their growing years. Therefore, all forms of sexual abuse that a child faces remain unnoticed. An ignorant child may not even know what it is or how to get help. Growing up with this can be extremely traumatic and can cause behavioral and psychological issues that can render forming healthy relationships a problem in future.
Arpan approaches schools to conduct sessions; however, parents’ consent is required before conducting sessions as some parents may not want their child to be taught about sex at a young age. If up to 50% consent is received, the session is conducted. Arpan PSE program teaches children about their personal safety and how to behave in society, identify feelings, know body parts, appreciate their bodies, learn the difference between safe and unsafe touches, find who they can trust and approach, deal with unsafe situations, refuse and escape unpleasant situations assertively and not aggressively.
Additionally, for older children age appropriate content is administered and they are also taught about their legal rights. In addition, a session on internet safety is also conducted. Children who come forward with a history of sexual abuse are provided appropriate interventions with counseling and all healing support, they are reassured that it is not their fault. Arpan’s role continues in the child’s healing process.
Volunteers and teachers are continuously trained through a curriculum, which is based on the grade of the student (from 1st to 10th standard). Arpan has built personal safety education kits in English, Hindi and Marathi languages for children in grades 1-6. The kit content is tested through and a pilot study with 2000 children is conducted and the content is modified and finalized appropriately.
Pooja Taparia, Arpan’s founder and chief executive, founded this mission in 2008 and states that, “I feel very hopeful about the present and future where children will grow in an abuse-free environment.” She feels that it is important that adults take on the responsibility of protection, helping children participate in their own safety and letting them know they can seek help in unsafe situations.
Over past 10 years Arpan has grown to be one of the largest NGO in India conducting PSE programs with over 85 social workers and counsellors providing prevention and intervention services to children and adults. Arpan has reached out to over 175,000 children, adolescents and adults directly through its services of prevention and intervention and over 460,000 indirectly through training and capacity building of various stakeholders. Arpan has won 6 National-level awards and 1 International award for its exemplary work.
We visited Arpan’s head office at Goregaon, Mumbai. They have a dedicated staff of about 90 members including administration, counselors, teachers and volunteers. Arpan is strongly working for this cause with a touch of professionalism driven by passion to create an impact in the society. There was a sense of complete transparency and effective use of resources. We were provided with Annual Report which is published every year with details of all programs, financials and governance.
We were shown the Personal Safety Education Kit, a curriculum that is specific to the age of the children. The kit contains age appropriate material with pictures and cartoons, for ease of learning. The kit also has stickers to identify feelings, positive and empowering messages of personal safety for the children and information about body parts.
We attended one of the sessions where Arpan teachers were conducting for grade 1 children. Children were taught and rationalized with by asking questions and making them participate in understanding of PSE. Children were not bombarded with information, rather the curriculum was taught along with activities and games to keep children involved. Overall children were very receptive and were able to connect well with the teachers in a friendly and positive atmosphere.
Arpan has been conducting Personal Safety Education (PSE) program for the last 10 years. Arpan decided to conduct a qualitative study to assess the efficacy of PSE program.
An external evaluation by IMRB (Indian Market Research Bureau) conducted with 620 students across Grades 1-7 in 7 schools trained by Arpan revealed of high impact which PSE has created:
100% of kids talked about the program after attending it. Of these, 75% spoke to their mother about the program
100% of kids said that they would want to attend the program again
Of the 8% children reported to have faced an unsafe situation, 90% of them were able to seek immediate help
Arpan has now set a target to work directly with 75,000 children over the next 3 years and millions indirectly by training over 5000 professionals across the country, as its outreach program. Through the digitization of content, Arpan hopes to reach out to children and adults across the world. Arpan is also working and impressing upon various agencies to make personal safety education a compulsory in the school curriculums.
With an annual expense budget of Rs 55mn, Arpan constantly seeks to bridge its funding needs from CSR funds, international grants and individual donations.
Continued efforts of Arpan would lead to heightened awareness and greater response among families, communities and society at large leading to significant improvement on child protection and making our world free from CSA. Certainly a Cause worth supporting.