Amidst a growing need for robust measures concerning the protection of children in Sri Lanka, there are many interventions in place to create awareness and reach communities in rural areas. These interventions take various forms and offer support, awareness and guidance to children in vulnerable communities.
According to The National Child Protection Agency (NCPA) over 11,000 cases of child abuse ranging from cruelty and neglect to sexual violence were reported in 2021. Creating awareness of the need to be safe in the community has been a priority for the children in underprivileged communities.
A Social Protection Awareness Initiative, a joint project between LEADS, an agency dedicated to creating safer spaces for children, and RYTHM Foundation, the social impact initiative of the Hong Kong headquartered QI Group, has been introduced towards minimizing the risk of children being exposed to child abuse. This initiative has been undertaken to provide support for children in vulnerable communities in the District of Mullaitivu in eastern Sri Lanka.
The project covers multiple areas such as providing shelter, livelihood support and skills training to low-income households, encouraging them to overcome poverty. This sustainable community development project also addresses the social protection of children to minimize their risk of abuse, neglect, and the violation of their rights.
One such measure is an active classroom session conducted to encourage children to swiftly run away from any form of abuse. Teachers trained in creating awareness among pre-school children, are able to deliver engaging and active programmes that show the children how they must walk away from any sign of abuse. The training is provided by the two organizations to empower the community to rise above its high level of poverty and lack of opportunities.
The teacher training programmes are held with the support of the Zonal Education Department; LEADS has developed and distributed a tool kit for the teachers, comprising of flash cards that used pictures to depict examples of ‘good touch’ and bad ‘touch’ to help facilitate learning and understanding of boundaries for the safety of each child. The programme also involves parent participation and engaging with the parents to understand the issue and also creates awareness on how, if any abuse is detected, it must be addressed in the correct manner.
Ravina, a young teacher who took part in the training and shared it with her pre-school students, is enthusiastic about the project. “I learned many things, including child protection laws. I am confident that I can share what I have learnt with others – students, other teachers, and parents too.” She says.
Ravina has wasted no time in sharing her experience and knowledge acquired through the material she has been given; the children in her pre-school have been taught using the modules created for the project. The outcome has been exceptional, with parents and students expressing their understanding and acknowledgement of the project and its aim.
RYTHM Foundation has always been committed to championing education for all, gender equality and sustainable community development to help build a better world for current and future generations. The Foundation’s Chairperson, Sri-Lankan born Umayal Eswaran says, “We hope that these awareness efforts combined with community development support will help to reduce the risks to the vulnerable children in Mullaitivu. Every child has a right to a fulfilled life, and we strongly believe in creating a safer, healthier, and more stable environment for all children where their fundamental rights are met so that they can live, learn and grow without fear.”