Protection

Protection1DMWSC has taken the lead in initiating programmes related to protection in the Darjeeling district. The emphasis is on supporting community based initiatives that help reduce abuse and violence against women and children. Promoting anti trafficking measures constitutes a key area of work. Unfortunately, poverty and deprivation is increasingly leading many youths, women and children to fall prey to unscrupulous agents who promise them a better life. Many of them end up as domestic workers who are ill treated and underpaid. There are others who are sold off or trafficked.

Safe Migration Programme

The programme was started on June 1, 2009, and covers Gulma, Mohargaon, Dhagaphur and Sukhna tea gardens in Champasari Gram Panchayat in Darjeeling district. It aims at strengthening community level mechanisms for countering trafficking and exploitation of women and children. It also involves enhancing linkages with police and other agencies for both preventive and follow up measures. Another focus area is building capacities of adolescent girls so that they are more aware and equipped to combat trafficking in their neighbourhoods. The programme is supported by Association of Bengal Collaborators for Development (ABCD), the Regional Diocesan Forum which began anti trafficking projects across multiple districts in West Bengal in 2007. 

Awareness meetings have been held across the programme area. A series of Participatory Learning through Action (PLAs) were conducted. These exercises helped in understanding the status of community members who have left the villages. Information regarding the common destinations, purpose and experiences of people who had left were gathered. 

Nine Community Vigilance Committees have also been formed. Active community members (men, women and adolescent girls), school teachers and Panchayat representatives are members of these committees. The committees are being encouraged to track movement of people who leave the villages. They are also beginning to closely monitor agents and other individuals who promise employment opportunities. They update the programme team on these aspects. Four adolescent girls' groups have also been formed. These groups track movement amongst their peers. The adolescent girls groups and the community vigilance committees share information during their monthly meetings. Meanwhile, the girls have also participated in a session on legal issues. They receive other supportive inputs on a regular basis. 

The programme has helped rescue a child and is following up on several other cases. These experiences have further energised the team which includes local men and women as community level animators. 

 

Key Learnings

  • Prior discussions with PRI leaders and other key community members ensured smooth initiation of the programme. 
  • Men and women usually work in the tea gardens till 5.30 pm. Meetings held during late evenings (7.30-8.00 pm) are convenient for them.
  • Audio visual media, particularly films, leave a lasting impression. Several community members, particularly mothers, became actively involved after they saw a film on the plight of children working as domestic labourers. Using local songs and street plays to disseminate key messages have also proved to be effective.
  • During the Participatory Learning through Action exercises, participants began to understand the gravity of the situation as a consolidated, community level picture of migrations and resulting experiences emerged. Earlier, individual instances of migration were taken as a normal, routine affair.
  • The support of the local police personnel has made a critical difference. They have helped the team in understanding how to write First Information Reports and other procedural aspects. More importantly, their involvement has helped the team (including community animators) to feel comfortable in approaching them whenever required.
  • There is a need to further enhance linkages with panchayats so that they can play a more active role in countering trafficking. Similarly, linkages with other agencies (government and non government) for rescue and rehabilitation need to be strengthened. The team also needs further inputs so that it can handle these sensitive processes more effectively.
  • Community members, including adolescent girls, want more information on legal issues. Facilitating such sessions would help enhance local capacities and have long term benefits as well. 

 

Women leaders from the tea gardens participated in a Workshop on Domestic Workers held on Feb 27-28, 2010, at Loyola Pastoral Centre in Siliguri. The workshop was a collaborative initiative of DMWSC and Domestic Workers Forum of Delhi. The issue of trafficking was highlighted at several other events including a Mahila Rally in Bagdogra (Oct 17, 2009). Various networking activities have been conducted to strengthen linkages with local non government organisations (NGOs), police, Panchayati Raj Institutions and other related stakeholders. 

Child Protection Programme

Launched on Jan 18, 2010, the programme covers Gulma and Panighatta tea gardens and Siliguri sub division in Darjeeling district. Its objectives include initiating community based monitoring cells to combat trafficking and providing rescue and restoration services through linkages and networking with various stakeholders. The three year programme will also provide counselling and health services to the rescued children. It is being implemented through a partnership involving DMWSC and two reputed non government organisations - Child In Need Institute's (CINI) North Bengal Unit and Kanchanjanga Uddhar Kendra (KUK).

Discussions and meetings are being held to facilitate formation of the community monitoring cell. Some community members, union leaders, PRI representatives and others, have expressed interest. A range of capacity building inputs on key aspects such as the Juvenile Justice Act, unsafe migration and trafficking are being planned.

In many ways, both the protection programmes are still in their initial stages. There is a lot that remains to be done. Nonetheless, the increasing involvement of local communities in working on unsafe migration and trafficking is encouraging. Various stakeholders are coming together to act on these concerns. An important beginning has been made.

 

Protection2Making A Difference

Soma (name changed), a 12 year old girl, was found wandering aimlessly in Gulma (Darjeeling district, West Bengal). Her relatives had brought her from her native village in Assam (a neighbouring state) to Siliguri to work as a domestic labourer. She was forced to get up at 4.00 am in the morning and work till late night. She was told that her parents had already been paid and was never given any salary. Soma was also physically tortured whenever she could not perform her work satisfactorily. Finally, she ran away and found herself in Gulma. 

Local women spotted the girl. One of them took Soma to her home. The traumatised girl told her story. However, she was unable to recall the name of her village. The next day, the women told the programme animator (Margaret Horo) about the girl. Subsequently, the programme coordinator informed the local police station and CINI North Bengal Unit (the partner organisation). Some of the women also came to the police station. The sub inspector suggested that the girl should be referred to an organisation that helps such children. The necessary formalities were conducted and the girl was placed with CINI North Bengal Unit. 

“Us bacchi ko dekh kar man bahut udas hua. Kahan hai nyay? Yahi soch mere man mein chubta raha,” recalls Beena Samad, one of the women who helped Soma. (I felt very sad when I saw her. Where is justice? This thought kept hurting me.) Soma is now slowly emerging from the dark shadows of her past. She is beginning to enjoy her childhood again. She wants to study.

 

 

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