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Location

9 slum pockets in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh (UP)
Thematic Focus: Education & Protection


Project Background

Dr. Shambhunath Singh Research Foundation (SRF) is a secular, non-profit development organization, which was established by a group of development professionals under the inspiration of the late literary figure and social activist Dr. Shambhunath Singh. In the initial phase, the organization worked in the field of protection and development of culture, art and literature. Over the last 2 decades, SRF has undertaken interventions on child rights, women’s empowerment, human rights, urban development and environment protection in rural, semi-urban and urban areas. SRF has partnered with a number of national and international organizations to support projects in and around Varanasi. The Project Holder, Dr. Rajeev Kumar Singh, has around 25 years of experience working with the UP state Voluntary Health Association and various government committees. He has been honored with the ‘Red and White Bravery Gold Medal’ in 2001 for his work against child labor, by Godfrey Phillips India Limited.


Problem Statement

According to the Population Census of 2011, Varanasi has a population of 3,682,194 with a population density of 2,399 inhabitants per square kilometer. The population growth rate of the district has declined over the decade from 25.5% to 17.3% and it has fallen below the state’s decadal population growth rate (20.1%). In addition, the sex ratio recorded nominal improvement from 903 to 909 over a decade. While the adult literacy rate has been increasing, a significant disparity can be seen between male (85.1%) and female (68.2%) literary rates. In terms of health outcomes, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for the district is 2.6, which is higher than the national fertility rate or desired TFR. Varanasi is an old city and because of its history and tradition is linked with culture and tradition. Child marriage is one of the most important issues which have been liked with tradition, poverty, dowry practices, lack of opportunities for education and insecurity for girls.

In the year-end assessment conducted for this project, four main areas have been identified as root causes for the unsafe environment for children: (1) a non-functional and unaccountable local governance and child protection system; (2) unsafe school environment; (3) weak family support system; and 4) Lack of community awareness. In order to fully understand the child rights violations, it is important to look at the child, his or her direct surroundings such as family, school and community, local governments’ facilities, and functioning of institutional structures responsible to secure these rights. In Varanasi, the local governance and child protection systems are there but ineffective due to low knowledge about child rights and child protection, low capacity to deliver on child rights, and low capacity in participatory processes to fulfill their responsibilities. There are government programs, initiatives and structures in place, but they do not reach the vulnerable children and families. The families’ and community members’ knowledge of ways and means to participate and claim their rights is low. The project intervention area comprises of the most marginalized and includes people from the caste of Rajbhar, Harijan, Dom, Muslims and Pasi. Child marriage is deeply embedded in these communities and many families also live under extreme pressure with scarce sources of income, forcing the children into child labor, children and families opting into unsafe migration, lacking health status, and poor attendance in school. Most of the people from these communities are daily wage workers, weavers or semi-skilled laborers. Educating the girls is not a priority for the parents and they prefer that their daughters stay at home or get married at a younger age in an attempt to ensure their safety. There is no access to school after primary school and children of the slums have to travel a long distance to attend upper primary school.

Presently, SRF is working in 9 slums in the Varanasi district with its main focus on child marriage and education. It is using child participation, community participation / engagement, government and stakeholder interface, and education as tools to address the issues. In the previous year, child marriages were reported by the adolescent girls and were prevented by the intervention of the alert group along with the field staff. Efforts have been made at each level through various strategies to address the issue of child marriage and make a collective approach to prevent child marriage. However, the issue of child marriage remains and poses a huge risk to the safety of girls.

Achievements & Impact


Program Activities Planned Achievements

Result Area: Improve enrollment, retention and regular attendance in schools in the project area.

• All children in 6-18 years old age group will be mapped to identify out of school and poor attendance children;
• Ensure 100% enrollment and retention among project community;
• Enroll dropout children in the age-group of 15-18 years old in open school board (NIOS), projects under Skills Development Mission, polytechnics and other skill development institutes/programs;
• Organizing motivation/ carrier counseling camp at community level for a link to education and other opportunities.

• 60 children enrolled above Grade 1 in formal school above the age of 14.
• 29 new admissions were done through SRF support (Class-1st).
• 19 children were mainstreamed into formal education from traditional theological education.
• 90 children (Boys-25, Girls-65) from intervention slums participated in the life skill sessions as per the Child Center Module.
• 2 batches (60 students) have completed courses under Digital Learning Center with technical support of NIIT Foundation, New Delhi. The third batch is undergoing the training.
• 5 child laborers were engaged in the Digital Learning Center.



Program Activities Planned Achievements

Result Area: Create informed, sensitized, empowered family members and community to stop child marriage.

* Conduct community awareness camp in all 9 bastis of Varanasi on child marriage, to explain legal consequences as well as ill effect on overall growth and development on children, sharing the details of relevant stakeholders and processes for annulment, issuing of injunction with the community.
* Organize awareness camps on child marriage with the help of District Legal Service Authority (DLSA).
* Organize regular monthly meetings with all the 9 Alert Groups in its intervention areas. The Alert Groups keep track of child marriage and other protection issues in their community and will keep updating the project team at regular basis.
* Mapping/ identification of victims of child marriage to counsel and help to share the problems and challenges.

* Community awareness camps were conducted in all 9 bastis of Varanasi on child marriage, its legal consequences as well as ill effect on overall growth and development on children. 325 people (110 male & 215 females) participated in this camp/meeting and 22 cases of prospective child marriages were identified and strategy was developed to work towards their prevention.
* Follow up on previous cases on child marriage issues was done and 51 victims were assisted through Aap Biti program. Re-marriage of 6 victims was facilitated and two child marriage victims were linked with Asha Jyoti Kendra of Varanasi for rehabilitation.
* Regular monthly meetings with all the 9 Alert Groups enabled tracking of child marriages and other protection issues in its intervention. As a result of these 22 prospective cases of child marriage were identified and strategy was developed to work towards its prevention. Two critical cases each in Daniyalpur slum and Ruppanpur were identified by alert group and initiative was taken to give them benefits of schemes.
* Mapping/identification of child marriages documents was updated and accordingly needs and challenges of victims were identified. Based on this one child marriage survivor was linked with Self-help group to make her independent, another survivor was linked with widow pension scheme and a third was given benefit of sponsorship scheme and Ration Card was provided to her.



Key Result Areas Achievements

Result Areas: Strengthening child protection institutions and mechanisms.

• Organize interface meetings with government officials responsible for child protection and child marriage in specific (Police, CWC[1], CDPO[2], and DCPO[3]) to sensitize them on legal provisions and significance of their actions.
• Advocate with government officials for developing CBCPM (Community based child protection mechanism) structure.
• Organize interface with officials responsible for ICPS implementation to ensure improved budget allocation, utilization and transparency.

• Training organized for all the WCPC[4] members on Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, Child Marriage Act, and other programs related to children. 7 team members and 13 WCPC members participated in the training.
• 4 child sexual abuse cases were identified and adequate action was taken in coordination with DCPU[5], CWC. Two children were rescued and were handed over to the appropriate authorities.
• 70 interfaces held among WCPC, CWC, Police, and JJB[6] to bring the right-holders and duty-bearers closer; 45 persons (Male-32, Female-13) participated in these interfaces.



Program Activities Planned Achievements

Result Areas: Strengthen community level action for improved protection of children from child rights violations.

• Conduct child risk analysis (identification of vulnerable children and their home) with participation of children groups in all 9 slums and facilitate a process to link such families and children with relevant social protection programs.
• Prepare and share status reports on child marriages in the project area and intervention strategies adopted and achievements with relevant stakeholders to strengthen government institutions and programs.

• Community Information Center (CIC) has been established in the project area. This has helped to identify the possible cases of child marriage and discuss the issues surrounding that. The lists of different programs are also shared in CIC which helps community members to collect information and act accordingly.
• 9 planned child marriages were identified and stopped, of which 5 were stopped during the lockdown period.
• List of 101 children have been prepared in the context of child protection: Child marriage, child labor, abandoned and the list has been submitted to DCPU. 36 potential child marriages were identified of which 28 linked with child labor program meant for education, 5 children were coming to the digital learning center and 3 were sent to homes.
• Remarriage of 6 victims was done.
• 2 child marriage victims were linked with Asha Jyoti Kendra of Varanasi for rehabilitation.
• 24 children were linked with child labor programs through education. 6 children linked with the foster program and 28 children were linked with the education program



Program Activities Planned Achievements

Result Areas: Strengthen children collectives and agency of children through skills building.

• Updating profiles of 36 children’s groups and strengthening collectives by defining their objectives clearly and regularly organizing meetings to discuss emerging issues of children and facilitate actions.
• Roll out of child participation training modules and document impacts emerging from different life skill trainings including access to government programs and strengthen their understanding according to their age group through discussions in meetings.
• Linking children with skill development and enrolling them in digital learning center and follow up of 150 children trained in previous year programs (digital learning center) and to ensure that they practice their learning regularly;
• Organize Baal Dhamal and celebration of children’s week.

• Profiles of 36 children’s groups were updated based on the ladder of participation (6-10 years old, 10-14 years old and 14-18 years old) and strengthened children’s collectives by defining the clear objective and agenda for the meetings.
• Thus, the profile of 695 children (male- 326, female -369), the member of collectives was updated.
• 425 children (male- 220, female-205) were members of ‘Bal Mantri Mandal’ formed at school level.
• ‘Bal Mantrimandal’ group was reformed in 8 Primary and 1 Upper Primary School. The orientation of all 9 ‘Bal Mantrimandal’ on their roles and responsibilities and challenges were done.
• 50 children were engaged in sports activities during the period through Bal Dhamaal.
• Regular training of e- volunteers and follow up was done. As a part of regular training and follow-up, e-volunteers have started registering complaints on ‘JanSunvai’ Portal and 1076 number. The trained e-volunteers are doing orientation of adolescents and the community. Based on one complaint through this process, repairing of sewage in the Pulkohna slum was done and road construction was undertaken in Daniyalpur slum.

Major Programmatic Highlight:

Since evening is the most opportune time for all to assemble at one place thus it is called evening classes (Sandhya Sala). The Sandhya Sala (Evening classes) helps in bringing out children to school. The children attending are mostly child laborers, dropouts, never been to school, or are irregular attending. They all come primarily from the vulnerable section of society. In the last three years, the 7 (Seven) Sandhya salas have enrolled 1,137 children in the age group of 6-14 years old out of which 847 have attended the classes regularly. The Sandhya Salas have managed to re-enroll 92 dropout children back to school. In the current year, there are 369 children of which 48 are child laborers and 148 of them are irregular attending.

There are three broad categories which the Sandhya Sala caters to:
Children who are enrolled in schools but rarely go:

Due to increased pressure on improving the enrollment numbers the government schools enroll children in the school registers. However, these children rarely go to school. As per the last government collected DISE data the attendance rate in Uttar Pradesh is the lowest in the country for the primary and elementary level. The attendance rate is abysmally low at 58% for the state and 61% for Varanasi urban.

Children who are engaged in economic activity or are child laborers and are dropouts or are not boarded in schools (NBS):

There are a large number of children who are engaged in child labor and are dropouts in the Varanasi slum area. In Uttar Pradesh, there has been an increase of 13% in the number of Child Laborers in 2011 when compared to the 2001 census. According to a Campaign against Child Labor (CAC) study, India has 12,666,377 child laborers of which UP have the highest 1,927,997 child laborers. The Varansi urban is considered one of the top hot spots for the involvement of children in economic activity. The children in some parts are also indulged in monetary beneficial traditional cremation activity near the Varanasi Ghats.

Recently enrolled through SRF help but need regular academic support:

Assist in the initial days of schooling as the children are enrolled in age-appropriate classes the SRF provides them with initial academic support so that they develop a sense of ownership towards school and feel comfortable when coming to school.

Mode of Teaching and Curriculum used:

Since the project is primarily focused on child protection components like child marriage, child labor, child sexual abuse, mitigation of gender-based violence, working with child protection structures like CWC/JJB/SJPU[7], etc., and compensation for the survivors. The educationally engaging platforms like Sandhya Sala, digital learning center, life skill education and SMART classes provided much-needed relief to protection survivors. The evening Sandhya classes engage children in a lot of fun activities, life skills, and use Uttar Pradesh board textbooks for teaching the children basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. These children have also engaged in periodic Bal Dhammal (children club) activities where children engaged in talents like theatre, dance, drawing, songs, sports, and other meaningful engagement.

Covid relief related initiatives carried out in the operational slums

Direct Covid Relief support:

• SRF team immediately responded by donating INR. 26,625/- to district administration through the RED CROSS Society during lockdown.
• 2,400 households in the slums were provided dry ration kits through multiple sources of support.
• 3,000 children were given special food kits like fruit juice, chocolates, wafers, and many other children's specific items.
• 7,500 masks were distributed to frontline workers like ASHA[8], Anganwadi workers and ANM[9].
• 600 hygiene kits and sanitary pads were distributed to adolescent girls that included - sanitary pads, toilet soaps, small sanitizers, and 3 masks in each kit.

Stakeholder engagement for system strengthening:

• Team collaborated with district administration and conducted a joint monitoring visit to all the children's homes to ascertain the gaps in terms of right to food and other entitlements of children in institutional care.
• Team featured on the All India Radio program, Varanasi and had briefed the audience on the existing challenges related to Covid-19.
• 87 families were linked in the right to food program in the project who were returning migrants from Delhi, Mumbai, and Lucknow.
• 26 children were linked with the new child labor program known as Bal Shramik Vidya Yojna in Uttar Pradesh which was launched with keeping Covid in mind.
• Team collaborated with District Administration for putting up posters in urban spaces, ICDS and schools regarding helpline details to combat trafficking. SRF has also shared info on Covid do’s and don’ts around 7 child care institutions across Eastern-UP to ensure the safety of children living there.

Recovery efforts:

- With the lifting of lockdown and initiation of the un-locking process by the government, the community started to look for ways to bring their life back on track.
- SRF conducted life skill sessions for adolescent girls’ groups and reached out to 213 girls. These sessions helped the girls in having meaningful engagements after the lockdown period.

Case Stories:

One of the key strategies of SRF is to orient religious leaders against the case of child marriage. On the information provided by the priest and the alert group, the SRF team together with the Child Welfare Committee and their CBO[10]’s formed by SRF (Alert group) intervened.

It was found that a girl named Sunita, easily looking as minor, was getting married to a man 35 years old living in Rajasthan. The case was not only of child marriage but also of interstate bride trafficking. Upon inquiring, it was found that the groom has come up with an advocate. The advocate produced an Aadhar card of the girl as 20 years old, which seemed was forged/ fudged. The team asked for other documents collaborating Aadhar like academic certificate, Voter ID which was not produced by the bride’s family and the groom. The silence of the bride during the entire procedure and lack of evidence produced by the parties led the intervening team lead by SRF to ask the parties to sign an affidavit stating that the bride will remain with the bride’s family. In the meantime, the SRF team has started the annulment process.

The school closures forced the children to stay home. The Covid restrictions limited the police and other authorities were busy handling the pandemic to intervene. Additionally, for some parents whose livelihood was disturbed by the pandemic, marriage was seen as the easiest way to secure their survival. SRF in Varanasi during the pandemic in the district have been extra vigilant to prevent child marriages, visiting the households of students who stop attending online classes or answering calls. The role of alert group during the Covid, in fact, has proved crucial in foiling child marriages. The SRF team has regularly connected through the online counseling sessions with adolescent girls and had organized regular home visits to high risk homes. Kareena, aged 16 years old, is the eldest of her six siblings and also is part of the SRF adolescent group. During Covid, the parents thought, it is better to get Kareena married to overcome any financial burden. The alert group (CBO formed in the slum area) helped the SRF team by informing them in advance. The SRF team together with the police and child welfare committee intervened on time. The entire community was angered since no document was produced by the bride and groom’s family supporting the bride is above 18 years of age. The Shariya (Islamic laws) was quoted in defense. However, the girl’s reluctance to go with the groom and SRF’s timely intervention thwarted the child marriage plan of Kareena.



Plans


Outcome Area Activities

Supporting context-specific appropriate strategies for continuous learning that allow school-aged children, teachers and schools to utilize flexible and remote/ home-based learning, which may include homework assignments, reading material, Radio, TV, online content, and internet-based learning in ensuring the continuity of learning in the COVID preparedness and response.

• Develop WhatsApp platform for young adolescents has been reactivated for communication on COVID related information.
• Activate mechanisms for identification and support of children that are rendered without parental care (temporary or long term)
• Engagement with State and district legal services authorities and services of legal and paralegal volunteers to disseminate audio messages/clips through loudspeakers so as to be able to maintain distance with the community while disseminating relevant messages.
• Assessing the impact of Covid in our intervention areas especially in terms of education investing significantly on education to meet the gap created by schools through Sandhya Sala

Ensuring good WASH and waste management practices that serve as barriers to human-to-human transmission of the COVID virus in homes, communities, health care facilities, schools, and other public spaces.

COVID RESPONSE KEY PLANS WASH:

• Conduct sensitization events for community on Covid preventive WASH practices.
• Improving liaison with Frontline Workers and service agencies such as ASAH, SJPU, CWC, etc. to secure access to essential services to prevent Covid among children.
• Gender-responsive Local and Community Radio to be engaged to provide regular “credible” messaging and engagement with the community – particularly on rumor engagement and dispelling myths.
• Monitoring and documentation – including behavioral insights on what works to communicate to women by women workers.



Total amount disbursed in 2020 - 26,480


Financial Summary: January to December 2021


Budget Breakup 2021

Education

11,145

41%

Protection

11,145

41%

Administration

5,195

18%

Total Grant Approved

27,485

100%