About the Project
‘Save Our Future’ is all about removing the taboo surrounding the topic of child sexual abuse in a conservative society like India. Although this issue is so malignant, that an increase of 336% in child rape cases has happened in just ten years, people are still reluctant to talk about it and only a very few NGOs are actually working on the issue. Another problem, or a window of opportunity, that was found is the absence of media resources in the local language. Save Our Future aims at spreading awareness in government schools, low-income private schools and low-income urban communities as the existing interventions lack bi-lingual content that is both easier to use and understand. We have developed eleven simple lesson plans for schools and five awareness videos that can be used in communities.
Progress So Far
One of the key highlights of the project was planning a joint activity with 12 classrooms which was a five-week workshop for special kids combined with the implementation of Save Our Future lesson plans. The project managed to reach 520 students and the classrooms have also taken a pledge to conduct special PTA sessions to talk about the issue of child sexual abuse with the parents as well. It was a happy sight to see kids set their own personal boundaries and ask doubts without fear. Thanks to a sudden stroke of inspiration, the project also managed to extend its influence to Annai orphanage where the management was extremely welcoming and open to implementing the project’s ideas. We have also reached out to over 60 families in two low-income communities, so far.
Challenges Expected and Faced
We were definitely expecting to get slammed with rejection when we first approached the communities, as we were all too familiar with the traditionalist taboo mindset of an average Indian adult. It was a huge learning moment for us, however, when we were received with nothing but a smile and eagerness to learn/change. We were underestimating the adults whose children were first generation learners by thinking that their mindsets would be set and negative when in fact we were the ones who needed a mindset change about their capacity to learn and do things for their children’s safety. The families were very receptive and they readily accepted the possibility of boys being the target of abuse as well.
Though there are quite a few school heads and teachers sympathetic to our cause, convincing the majority to do the lesson plans is going to take a lot of effort and time. This delay, to our surprise, is not for the reason that we were expecting. We expected to face some resistance with regards to the fact that the teachers may not be comfortable with explaining such a delicate concept to primary school children but the challenge that we faced was the defeatist mindset with which teachers approach students from underprivileged backgrounds. Many of them do not believe in a happy future for these kids and they are very vocal in expressing their disbelief. They, in fact, feel that is a waste of time to exert extra effort in their classrooms.
Another issue that we faced was the lethargic attitude of many teachers. They hit us with excuses such as “We need a written letter from the government to do such things in our classroom”, “I am sorry but it has not come in any official circular so I don’t have to implement it”, “Oh, I have to finish syllabus soon so I have no time right now” etc. Bottom line, they don’t want to do it because they don’t see any benefit in it for them. Some of them openly told us to stop increasing their workload by bringing such unwanted, additio
nal lesson plans to their classroom and that the government knows what is good for the children. It was a harsh but much-needed look at the reality in public schools and it has only strengthened our resolve to work continuously to overcome this barrier. A temporary solution that we thought of was getting volunteers to implement the lesson plans in schools. But convincing the teachers to do it for social value, without expecting monetary rewards/benefits, would help in bringing about a long-term as well as long-lasting change and our efforts will focus on this as well.
We are hoping to launch a webpage with all our resources soon. We are also looking at providing professional support for affected children and producing other resources such as workbooks, charts and storybooks in the long-term.
In close cooperation, the Engagementpreis Foundation and the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, have together been organizing the Commitment Award since 2012. The Commitment Award is a yearly prize for fascinating, new social projects. In the last 5 years, 15 of these prizes were awarded with a total sum of €25,000. Further information on the last years projects and how they were actualized can be found on facebook as well as on www.commitmentaward.org.
Three winning projects are chosen at the annual award ceremony, this year on Friday, July 7, 2017 at ThEx (Thüringer Zentrum für Existenzgründung und Unternehmertum), Erfurt. Applications for the Commitment Award 2017 are open until May 15, 2017. If you are a student or alumna/alumnus of the Brandt School, feel free to submit your project application. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.