297,Gurukul Road,Vrindavan(UP)India- 281121 nirmalinitiative@gmail.com 9927646646

Contributing to their wisdom gave more joy than a good grade has ever given me!

Before entering the programme, I was pretty anxious and also curious to go into the field as I knew that this step that I have taken is very much out of my comfort zone. I wanted to see if I would be able to overcome the challenge, I made with myself. From the moment I stepped onto the train to Mathura junction, I promised myself to go to Vrindavan with an open mind.
Even so, I still made strategies in my head on how to interact with the Rajpur village residents, how to handle a class full of students, tried to form sentences in my head to say, so that the students can’t see how nervous didi actually is. But when I finally reached the field, I realized that it was the kids who ran the show and the model of planning, implementing and execution was not their forte. This meant that I had to be spontaneous; I had to be far more gripping than I thought. I needed to find the perfect balance of firm yet easy-going and approachable to come to par with their level of energy.
The Delta Meghwal Child Protection Programme focus was that the child in the direction of letting parents, children and the villagers know what child sexual abuse is, how to identify it and to provide all with the confidence to intervene. The emphasis was on valuing the safety and health of the child, and challenging the shameful silence; to make sure that all come to know that the child is never guilty but it is rather the perpetrator.
Putting such notions out in the society did not come without its challenges. Even though we were welcomed in the houses with a lot of warmth, we faced a few challenges trying to explain these ideas. In this community, the caste hierarchy and the sensitivity around touch were like very fine beads among sand nonetheless quite visible.

Throughout the 15 days, we sang and enacted poems with students which were based on various themes such as self-care, safety bubble and so on. We began with a poem focused on self-esteem with lines such as Apne jaisa har ek bacha…har ek bacha sundar sacha…har mein ek baat nirali, na koi badha, na koi mawali…. With the help of this poem, we instilled the idea that every child is special. We recited another one titled taak lagakar daudo daudo, through which we made sure that the kids knew what needed to be done if someone touches them wrongfully: Naa-naa kar k shor machao, bhago itna hath naa aao is one such line. We also did one that addressed the caste hierarchy Chalo Khele, which had rhymes such as khelenge bhai khelenge, bas jaat ka khel naa khelenge…ismein aata nahi mazza, bas bhed bhao aur buri sazza. At the end of 15 days, the students knew every word and the meaning behind the poems which was very rewarding for our team. In the classrooms as well, we did self-esteem & self-confidence building exercises. Many a time in the school, we saw kids learning at a very young age and starting to model and inhibit the attitudes towards caste.

The parents of the students were very receptive and listened very carefully when we informed them about CSA. It was very reassuring to see that the parent above else cared the most about their children’s safety, however, there were instances when adults of the village assumed child’s responsibility in participating in the abuse, thus it was not even considered abuse. However, whenever we stroked up conversations around consent, we conveyed that in sexual relations between a child and an adult, the child is not a consenting adult and therefore it is wrong. To this very often parents replied saying that kids cannot consent to the act. I initially thought that there would be a lot of resistance to this kind of a conversation from the parents but their amenableness left me rather relieved and content, as it gave me a sense that the vigilance and awareness that this conversation has created would keep the child safe. We also made a note to talk to parents about opening up to their children and having daily conversations, wherein they ask them what happened in school, or how the play was and how was their time at the tuition etc. We explained that asking questions about their day, friends, people and environment around would help the child open up to them (the parents) which in turn would mean that they would report any wrongful event to parents immediately.
Whilst the tête-à-tête with the parents was “conversational”, I faced a mental obstacle thinking about how I would relay these particulars to students. With the kids I had to start from the basics, I wondered if it would be hard for me to convey that someone, anyone can touch you in an extremely wrong way. As I was struggling with this, I realized I had picked a very difficult bunch of students. Was it subconsciously that I did so to challenge myself, to throw myself out of my comfort zone?
The class was full of high energy, yet very reserved and shy kids. It was full of dichotomies, whether between caste, religions or age groups. But the students were quite aware of their dichotomies which in their mind separated them starkly; also made them lack solidarity. That scenario made me awfully gloomy because they were just a bunch of 10-13-year-olds. To shake off the troubles that I started to face I stretched a hand towards the team, I asked for help which I was neglectful of doing as I thought it may come across as lacking control but it was high time and I needed help so I asked for it. And everyone came to my rescue; fellow-volunteers and the programme coordinators. They suggested to me what and how to do it. They helped me conduct my sessions with my class. And finally, with the teams help I was able to convey all the necessary, relevant and crucial information to the class. Having done that made me feel braver than when I did cliff jumping. Contributing to their wisdom gave so much more satisfaction than a pizza or a good grade has ever given me.

During the internship, I realized the real value of words, the politics of hierarchy and its hold on the human beings consciousness, which rather made me aware of tons of my privilege. I learned to work professionally and with ethics without losing even an ounce of fun. I learned the requirement and the amount of energy it takes for one to be able to detach themselves from the field (for their own mental health). I learned that forming a bond takes effort that has to come from within oneself if you proceed with doubt and judgment it would seem difficult and impossible as it happened with me, until I arrived here.
I expected this to be yet another internship, I knew I would learn new things but seeing the ethos and dedication that comes from Nirmal Initiative for the cause and how us, interns were given freedom to choose our battles and were helped along whichever one we picked, it for me became a wonderful journey. I am grateful for having been on this journey and I hope to continue to work with the initiative.

‘A Tale of Contagious Love’ – Sudarshan Bisht

A snippet of 15 days community work on the prevention of Child Sexual abuse and Caste-based bullying.

We all are vibrational beings, we vibrate at frequencies to connect with our environment; interaction through vibes is powerful than spoken words. Our environment strongly influences our vibes, and we also have the power to influence it. How often we experience more relaxed and calm compared whenever we go close to nature, unlike the experience of walking in a busy metro city road.

Every thought and emotions we create and feel communicates something. You must have also experienced the power of vibes when you communicate with very young children or your pets, they may not understand your words but they do experience your energy.

But why am I writing about how powerful vibes are?

Because I want you to contemplate on it. When you realize it, you will also understand that how you have the power to change your own surrounding/society or the world. I want you to consider the fact that we all want to live in a peaceful, happy and safe environment, but we are failing to vibrate at frequencies that are required to create it, by not allowing ourselves time and space to think affirmative, hopeful thoughts on daily basis; most of us are just receivers of negative, regressive, oppressive thoughts floating around us. We hardly realize that we have the potential to be the transmitters of good constructive vibes.
Yes, we do have the choice of becoming a transmitter of positive vibes, and I am glad I was able to realize it quite recently, through an immensely insightful and life-changing internship experience in Vrindavan with Nirmal Initiative. Initially, when I applied for “Delta Meghwal Child Protection Programme 16-30 December 2018”, I was a bit nervous because I had little experience of working with young children, and that too on a sensitive issue of child sexual abuse (CSA). What further added to my sense of nervousness was that the site of the internship was a rural community in Uttar Pradesh, where casteism is quite prevalent. I was also nervous because I still had a few stereotypical images of activists in my head. (Read more about “Delta Meghwal Child Protection Programme 16-30 December 2018” here:
However, all my nervousness was gone in just 30 minutes after I met Shweta for the first time in her house (where lodging for all other interns was arranged). She was not at all stereotypical aggressive human rights activist but a person with a smile and an open heart. She approached us like we have known her since years and we were treated as part of her lovely family. In fact, she sent a love letter marking all interns, sadly, which I was able to read only after reaching Vrindavan. On our first interaction before internship started, she made it clear that the Nirmal Initiative and its programme put humane values and emotions at its core, nothing is product and nobody is a service provider or beneficiary for the organization. She shared her belief that Love is as contagious as fear and hate, and we all can share and create more loving environment if we are ready to nurture thoughts and emotions of love and peace within ourselves. At that moment, I got the vibe that I am at the right place, with the right kind of people to add some good experience and thoughts in my life and reciprocate it in the due course of 15 days.

Over the next 15 days we worked with children and rural community of Rajpur village, Vrindavan. Our mission was to initiate a conversation in the village around child mental and physical safely/well-being, specifically in regard to sexual abuse. We worked in Rajpur Govt. primary school with approximately 80 children (Class 1st to 5th) and also reached out to their parents. We rolled out the programme by visiting the village and started conversing with randomly selected village houses and tried to understand if the villagers are open to talk about child safety and mental well-being. Next day onward (17th December 2018), we started visiting Rajpur Govt. Primary School regularly for 2 weeks. The morning assembly was one of the most important slots of the day in school for us. We always practiced 2-3 songs in the morning assembly. These lovely songs on self-care and sharing for children really helped to break the ice and also served as a foundation for the interaction to be established in the coming part of the days. Each child loved singing these songs/rhymes in the morning as loud as they could with the team, and gradually most of the children not only remembered them but also performed them on stage in the closing ceremony. It was a delight to see that they could actually understand the importance of self-care, safe touch/unsafe touch, trusting their intuitions in regard to sexual violence instances.

We daily spent, 3-4 hours in school and did other activities like colour book filing, expression of emotions etc. We made sure that all these interactions with children through activities in school and even while meeting their parents at home should be done in great zeal, and in with positive intentions only. At our closing ceremony, we realized how successfully we were able to achieve it. There were parents, teachers, other community member and children who shared their experience with the programme. Thus, comes the concluding point for 15 days journey, what we shared, we were reciprocated with the same, we shared love and care, and thus, at the end of the programme we were able to get not only appreciation, praise, and positive feedback, but wonderful support and gestures of love from the community and children.

Sudarshan Bisht is Mass Communication graduate with seven years of experience in development communication and
project management, for non-profit organizations.

‘A Monkey Ride’ – Mallika Narang

Looking at the complex social reality around, to be able to visualize a safe space to do away with the grave issue of child sexual abuse seems like a far-fetched dream, more of a fantasy. But here, at Nirmal Initiative, watching this space already being visualized, conceptualized and moving in the direction of ensuring safer space for children was no less than a push to not lose hope too soon for a 23 year old, who has been figuring out the how’s and when’s of what she needs to do as a person.
Before entering the program, I was pretty curious about what would these 15 days bring. I also wondered if a 15 days intervention is even required when I knew of workshops that happen over a course of 2 hours.
However, this program was not just concerned with brushing up or touching upon the topic, but instead, the focus was to build confidence within the community, make children aware of child sexual abuse, so that they could identify and make comfortable disclosure if a need arises.
The 5-6 step programme began from building a child’s self-esteem by letting them know how everybody is different from each other, and that it does not make them less important but instead special in their own ways. This further led to making them realize how every special thing is supposed to be taken care of, which meant that they were to take care of everybody around them, regardless of differences in sex, caste etc. and most importantly, their own selves. This led to discussions on emotions where the focus was to let children know and pinpoint emotions one experience in the case of sexual violence. This further opened the discussion to body parts and private body parts and touch that might be safe or unsafe, which set a stage for letting children know as to what one should do when something like that happens to lead on to a discussion on how and when can a child say ‘no’, push the perpetrator and run and share the experience with trusted adults. Finally, concluding it with a reinforcement that they are not responsible for the abuse happening to them. It is only while I was engaged with the children, I realized that something so extensive certainly required this amount of time, maybe even more.
A classroom structure where children were instructed and constantly ‘disciplined’ played a very important role for us to get established and be able to develop a rapport with the children. The prevalent way of conducting classroom was in contrast with the playful yet intensive pedagogical approach our poems/songs and the coloring books with which we interacted with the students. Talking to them in the language they understand best, through colors and music and conversations rather than lectures. The poems which were so well written held the gist of all the themes that were to be covered.
On the first day, we did a random field survey. We went around the village, met the villagers and that gave us a good insight into the space we were planning to work on. Diluting the words according to the place and people and making a survey like a conversation was a skill that I learned that day. Throughout the visits in these 15 days, the general opinions that came our way on this issue were that though child sexual abuse prevails, perpetrator could be somebody from the house itself or is somebody from a lower caste or some religious baba that would lure and pick children up, however, they deny they deny the prevalence of same in their community. A good number of people said that this happened mostly in cities and urban areas.

The houses that had heard of instances of child sexual abuse claimed to hear regarding it through news, WhatsApp or Facebook. Out of the many households, there were also a few, small in numbers who were unaware of such a thing. None of them was aware of POCSO and when asked as to what they would do, most of them said they would first try to resolve it without the involvement of authority and would go to one if needed. In this off the hook engagements, some also suggested violent methods of dealing with such a situation, others mentioned going to the police.

My journey throughout masters has been to understand and explore the time, space and reason where psychological issues begin, and end up in people getting ill or becoming criminals that become outcast and then ultimately not being understood. There certainly are political and social factors contributing to something like this, but psychologically speaking, where parents slip is when they stop ‘talking with’ the child but rather choose to ‘talk to’ the child, as if the child is a property and somebody who needs to be fit into a particular frame of a ‘good boy/girl’. This leads to the child not speaking or speaking in a desirable manner or having behavioral problems. This silence or miscommunication holds most of the future of the child and further of the society and the community. In each household, we were supposed to send out a very simple and a very important message which was to communicate ‘with’ the child and not ‘to’ the child, also, to create a space for the child to speak and be able to talk and share their mind. To let them speak and be heard so that silences or miscommunications do not become a space where most of their lives are lived and most of their self is formed.
The households I got to cover, women were house-makers or at most would stitch clothes. There were 2 households out of which in one of those a woman had a proper business as a tailor, and in another one mother wasn’t available because she had gone for some work. On asking children as to what they want to become when they grow up, most of the boys had answers and most of the girls too had answers, but a bunch of girls, whose houses too we got to go, had no idea as to what they would do after they are done with primary schooling. Households of these girls were either very poor and had single bread earners.

Going to these houses, one could also feel and sense and experience the hierarchies that had been created. There were different lanes for different castes and the houses of certain children were on the fringes, mostly isolated. In one of the households, I was offered tea which I refused and in order to convince me to have something, the lady in the house clarifies, “ye brahmano ka ghar hai apko chinta karne ki zaroorat nahni hai” (This is a Brahman household! you need not worry). This was my first direct contact with caste, coming from an urban space and a privileged caste position. The hesitation of children holding hands of some of the children, the isolation of certain children in the class from the other, the houses of people of lower caste could be identified separately even from the inside, children of lower caste not being allowed to operate the common source of water.
The last day, the closure, was a charm. Children had learned all the poems by heart. They remembered what they were taught when they were asked. The attendance of parents was a real delight to see. The collaboration with Vrinda Kunj, talking about cleaning and saving the Yamuna, was a good way to send a message that cleaning is everybody’s job, in a place where caste practices are this rampant.
In this 15 day journey, I also realized that the ability of children have to understand abstract concepts is tremendous and so under-estimated. We think children don’t understand immaterial concepts rather children of class 5th had a very clear and in-depth understanding of whatever we were trying to make them understand. They could understand the concept of a bubble, the importance of keeping one’s heart lighter by sharing their feelings and emotions, the importance of respecting their colleagues and so on. I could clearly witness that children have this very ‘in-the-moment’ stature. They don’t really understand caste but they understand not holding a child’s hand. If one of us would stand in-between them and let them be after a while they would be holding each other’s hands. Thus, a constant reinforcing is necessary when it comes to children and that’s another thing I learned from this whole program, to be able to be flexible and accepting and not very rigid with my beliefs and thoughts.
I cannot end this without being thankful and grateful for the team I got to be a part of. With such mentorship, initially from Himani and then throughout from Shweta, got me to take a lot of lessons home without being taught. The field had its own share of teachings and the house had its own. The meaning of co-existence, in terms of living with 6 strangers and 3 other different species in the house (rabbit, monkey, and squirrel), all together was an experience in itself. Working for the community would have been incomplete without really living like one. Covering each other’s voids up, getting scolded together, working as a team, supporting each other, being protective of each other and really understanding each other’s tastes and boiling points was something we could really understand about each other in just 15 days. It apparently takes a lot of time for something like this to happen, but I guess not. We were all there with good intentions and we were all mature enough to grow with each other. The director and the coordinator were no different, all worked as a team. Emphasis on having food together, leaving and being together seeming to curb freedom but when one looks past it, it actually seems like a call for living as a community with one’s own bubble game on too. This is a very small space to suffice everything I experienced and observe, and putting it all into words is also a tough task in itself.
One major thing I learned here and am taking here as a new years’ thing was to work on is that dignity is not a choice, that you are not to ‘give’ dignity to somebody or like you ‘can’ so you ‘will’ or that there’s a privilege you hold and that as a good human one ‘should’. Dignity is something you have to have for another human regardless of caste, creed, sex, gender. I realized how I was ‘giving’ people dignity from a position that I held, while it is as necessary as just being. And I learned this by feeling dignified and cared for here at this initiative through this programme. Thank you for the experience and I hope to be a part of the initiative further.

Mallika Narang worked with Nirmal Initiative in the capacity of an intern in December 2018. She is a theater artist, she is pursuing Masters of Arts in Psychology from Ambedkar University, Delhi.

VOLUNTEER CALL FOR DELTA MEGHWAL CHILD PROTECTION PROGRAMME 16th Dec- 30th Dec 2018

How do you talk about safe touch and unsafe touch (good touch and bad touch) with children in the country which actively practices untouchability? How do you encourage children to build respectful friendships when the culture encourages them to treat their Dalit classmates as unwanted and humiliate them for claiming their value as a human being? Where Dalit children are made to sit at a distance in the classroom, they are told to not touch the mid-day meal. The stories of everyday humiliation are enormous. However, the point we are trying to make here is that ‘TOUCH’ is not so simple to fall into simple categories of safe and unsafe. It is a complex subject matter in the caste society we inhabit.
Therefore we believe that child protection against sexual violence remains a mere whitewash if we do not address the everyday bullying, discrimination and orchestrated sexual violence based on caste.
Who is Delta Meghwal:
On 29th March 2016, 17 year’s old Dalit girl was raped and killed in her residential college premises in Rajasthan. She was made to clean the room of the physical health trainer who raped her. When she complained, she was forced to write an apology letter which indicated consensual sex. Delta informed her father about the incident. Before her family could reach the city, Delta was killed. Her dead body was found in a water tank of her hostel under suspicious conditions. She was a brilliant painter and orator, in 2008 one of her artworks, painted by her in her 4th grade, featured in an art magazine ‘Art at the Sachivalay: Rajasthan.

Why we dedicate this programme to Delta:
Sexual violence can happen to anyone, all children and women are vulnerable and are potential victims of sexual violence. However, the caste-based discrimination orchestrates targeted sexual violence against Dalit children and women. It is imperative that we intervene. Delta was an inspiration for both boys and girls in her village. A brilliant orator, a Parade leader, a Painter. She is a beacon of light. She is a warrior of hope. She must live through each child who benefits from this programme.
What is the programme all about?
We will be staying in a village called ‘Chaudhary ka Nagla’, from 16th to 30th December 2018. We have a coloring book for children which we will be practicing with the children in the government primary school. The coloring book thematically addresses the issue of self-care, respect for others, personal space, acknowledge feelings and communicate the feelings with the assertion, finally the difference between safe and unsafe touch. We have developed rhymes and activities to understand caste based bullying and above-mentioned issues. We will do home visits to inform the parents of the children about the existing law and policy on the prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. We aim to inform parents about what they should do in case their child discloses sexual abuse.
It is important to note that we will restrict our caste based bullying prevention to the school only and will not engage on the issue with the adult community members. We call it a ripple effect intervention- where we work with the children with the hope that logical and compassionate thinking shall enable them to not choose to be the carriers of caste practice. The adults in the village communities already have a crystalized thought pattern that cannot be challenged in a matter of 15 days. Undoing caste pride and privileges is a matter of doing, it is a matter of practice and requires long-term engagement. At initial stages, we cannot take risk of being refused by the community.
What to expect from the programme and from oneself and the mission:
The programme is inspired by the work of Mother Savitri Bai Phule, India’s first woman educationalist. We believe that education has the potential to challenge the crystallized norms and set the wheel of change in motion. The programme is less about learning and more about unlearning. Child Sexual Abuse is a complex problem in the rural context. A sexually abused girl child faces a threat of early marriage (Child marriage is a prevalent reality in western U.P). Devoid of rhetoric, together as a team we will set up basic rules for 15 days teamwork. Our mobility within the village will be collective and not individual. We are doing this pilot awareness camp to ensure that the prevalence, repercussions and the dire need of prevention of child sexual abuse be conveyed to the village community, and children start questioning rudimentary caste structure in compassionate and assertive manner.
We will Sing rhymes and songs, practice child sexual abuse awareness coloring book, holding group discussions, initiating individual conversations, painting village walls, some playful yet intensive activities and much more awaits you in this 15 days camp.
We will take care of your board and lodge. We have tried raising funds for this work through crowdfunding. But it has not worked well for us this time. So we rely on whatever little we have got in terms of material resources and on the most valuable i.e human resource, our will, our knowledge, and the mission. You will have to take care of your travel. Once you are in Mathura, we will take care of you in kind. Your participation will be acknowledged through a letter of recommendation/internship certificate.
Come and work with us to shake the dust off the silence which has been held for so long.
We are waiting for you.
Nirmal Initiative Team
Send in your CV and let us know why you want to be a part of this programme: nirmalinitiative@gmail.com

All children have the right to Safety: A Coloring Book

If you are finding it difficult to talk about Child Sexual Abuse with the children without making them feel scared, then we encourage you to use this coloring book to engage with any child in your surroundings in a fun and loving manner.

Download the coloring book in the English: All Children have the Right to Safety

Download the coloring book in the Hindi: हर बच्चे को है सुरक्षा का अधिकार

This coloring book is a guide for teachers and parents on children’s self- esteem, self-care, personal space, their awareness about unsafe touch, and what to do if one feels unsafe. Communicated through pictures, it gives teachers and parents a good mode of communication to start talking about CSA with kids in a non-threatening way, after all, learning about personal safety does not have to be scary.

Every picture in the coloring book has an epilogue comprising joyous activities for children and a message to listen to their inner voice and seek help. Two children are narrators of the things as told by elders.

The book is a novel and innovative effort to reach a child’s innocent mind. There are attractive pictures that speak louder than words, and children learn effectively from activity based exercises.

The book contains 17 pictures, the pictures 1 to 4 convey self-esteem reinforcement, and that every child is special. The background of this message is to reinforce that children develop the desire and confidence to take care of themselves as they are important.

 Pictures 5 to 7 convey self-care and protection as it encourages children to think about themselves in a serious and self-connected way.

Pictures 8 to 12 contain a ‘personal space circle’, to explain to children that each and every person has an invisible circle around them and what happens if someone trespasses that space.

Pictures 13 to 15 are about unsafe secret touch. They explain that there are four private parts of a child’s body, and it’s totally unacceptable if someone touches their mouth, chest, and genitals.

And finally, pictures 16 to 18 explain that in case someone touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable, then they must reach out to the adult they trust for help.

The idea is to pass on a powerful affirmative message: if a child has been abused then adults should make sure that the child knows that it isn’t their (the child’s) fault.

The book is a worth reading and sharing. It should be a part of every school curriculum as it introduces the issue of CSA to children and adults in a playful way but is still clear, precise and direct, including statistics of CSA, which are essential to point out to the gravity of the issue.

It does away with the language barrier as it’s available in Hindi and English and is easily translatable in other languages. Distributed in the welfare of the society, the book is free of cost, but with a caution against using it for commercial purposes.

Coloring Book On Child Sexual Abuse Prevention

 

On 27th September 2017, We formally released our coloring book for the children. This coloring book is a very helpful tool for parents and teachers to talk about Child Sexual Abuse in a non-threatening yet in affirmative fun manner.

            Hon’ble MP Hema Malini Ji expressing her views on media about our coloring book on                 Child Sexual Abuse Prevention.

People’s Safety Workshop at Rama School in Vrindavan

 Our Volunteers Niharika Randhawa and Ezaboo Beniwal who are graduate students at the University of Delhi conducted a wonderful week-long workshop People’s safety workshop with Children at Rama School.

Taking inspiration from a leading non-profit KidPower based in the USA, we have adopted the word People’s Safety instead of using personal safety. We believe that Safety from violence is a shared practice, therefore it is important to instill a social sense of mutual safety in children.

In this image, the children are posing with a coloring sheet which says – ‘An Unsafe touch done to you is never your fault’.