Childline, Aangan and Majlis – Reports on a field visit to Mumbai

Sat on the floor of a hut in the slums, a young girl asks me ‘Why do you want to help us?’  Its such a cynical question from such a young mind, hardened to the motivations of man and society.  We can come out with phrases like ‘It’s my duty to leave the world a better place,’ or ‘I believe all young girls should be given the opportunities I have been,’ or we can discuss issues around empowerment and inequality, rights and access, all of which are relevant.  Giving people hope, to see their eyes lift when they understand there is a chance, fills me with positivity and energy.  Showing someone the path is enabling and empowering them and the energy that hope created brings motivates them.  Savannah Wisdom has chosen to work with organisations in India that provide this secondary service, that connects those that feel marginalised to the systems there to help them.

Operating Childline in India is a phenomenal undertaking.  It currently operates in 366 cities across India and reaches out to the most marginalised children with the aim of providing them rehabilitation and care from unsafe situations.  Unlike in the UK, it intervenes to provide children with shelter, medical aid, repatriation, rescue, legal support etc and does this through a network of NGOs specialising in child protection.  The intervention can be within an hour in critical and emergency cases.  I sat in at the Childline call centre, and listened as the support team took calls and channelled them to the right NGO in the right location, so that an intervention could occur.  By listening and acting, intervening and following up, children and their parents were given hope.

The impressive Flavia Agnes set up Majlis Legal Centre to fight for women’s rights.  They are a group of lawyers and social activists who inform, educate and empower women on their legal rights.  They take on cases, including public interest litigation cases, conduct awareness training, for example for the police, and are not afraid to speak on policy.  The Rahat programme, supported by Savannah Wisdom, helps victims of sexual violence with their legal paperwork, evidence taking and counselling, always being present till the case is concluded. These voices were previously unheard, or dismissed by a male dominated legal system.  Holding hands along the path gives these girls and women dignity and hope.

In Golibar, I met with the girls who have been given Shakti through the Aangan programme.    Aangan sells itself as an anti-trafficking NGO, but its activities are based around empowerment of young girls, protection and prevention (reducing the risk of trafficking.)  In the slums where these girls cannot even go to the toilet without fear of violence, or feel vulnerable going to school, Aangan has empowered them to stand together as a community.  They know what’s wrong, they know their rights and with enough hope and motivation they can lift themselves out of the cycle of poverty and vulnerability.