March 10, 2021, Hyderabad: The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in countless lives. Among the worst hit has been the children from th0e underprivileged communities. In its quest to ensure their safety, Shrmika Vikasa Kendram (SVK), one of the project partners of CRY (Child Rights and You) is working towards safety of children by enhancing the capabilities of Village Child Protection Committee (VCPCs). In over a year, SVK in collaboration with the VCPC has prevented 20 child marriages and 67 children facing child labour and drop-outs were re-enrolled back to school in the Wanaparthy & Nagarkurnool districts of Telengana.
VCPC’s in 46 panchayats played an important role in identifying the children of vulnerable & migrant families. Provision of ration cards, raising local resources for food and ration was facilitated to provide relief to 518 families during the trying times. They also ensured 294 families were provided work under MNREGA and an extra vigil was kept ensuring there was no child rights violation.
VCPC was introduced as a part of Integrated Child Protection System (ICPS) scheme which was introduced in 2009 by the Department of Women &child development. This is the first time a comprehensive, community-based step towards child protection has been taken where different members of the community identify and look out for children at risk to provide assistance to unprotected children and their families.
“We have witnessed this in the rise of cases of child marriage, child labour, domestic violence in recent times. This pandemic has restricted movement in our operational areas and that has unfortunately led to an increase in child rights violations. It was exceedingly difficult for our SVK team members to physically visit the households due to this restricted movement during the lockdown. During times like these, VCPC’s played an important role to safeguard the rights of children” said Laxman Rao, Head of SVK.
He also added, “We remained in touch with the VCPC members over telephone, created WhatsApp groups and conducted regular online webinars to enhance the capabilities of the VCPC’s while working in the pandemic,”.
SVK team identified all the members, conducted regular meetings, explained the roles and responsibilities of each committee members and formed a functioning VCPC. Once the VCPC were formed SVK team reached out to the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) members and requested them to formally recognize these VCPC as per the ICPS scheme, team submitted a memorandum and all the necessary forms for formation of VCPC. Since then SVK team has been conducting monthly meetings for these VCPC where different Child rights issues are been discussed.
“Earlier in our village we were not concentrating on Children’s issues, we were always thinking about issues of livelihood etc, but after the VCPC was formed we started working in children’s issues and being more vigilant about protecting children, we did not even know that there was so many laws for children, But today our team at VCPC safeguards children and ensures education for all.” said Nandi Kausalya VCPC chairperson Kopunnur.
“It was a huge relief when the VCPC members identified our family and ensured we get the right intervention. My child not only got the chance to attend school, but also received all the other benefits like, food fee, books necessary to continue his education till the 12th standard. After my husband passed away, who was the sole bread winner for our family, it was difficult for us to make the ends meet. They also linked me with the social security schemes, like the Widow Pension Scheme and together it has made us survive some of the most difficult times,” said Narasamma who was identified by the VCPC members for providing help.
Empowering communities is an essential step that ensures a sustained intervention among the marginalised communities. Every village is nuanced with different challenges, the VCPC having intricate knowledge of the local problem they are well versed to provide the right intervention. The VCPC is a tool that subscribes that idea and project partners like SVK continues to play a pivotal role in facilitating that.