Children and adolescents have reported feeling the most unsafe in their own homes and in schools, the findings of a four-year study in three pockets in Mumbai have shown.
Children, aged between 11 and 18 years, some of whom conducted surveys as part of the study, cited domestic and alcohol-fuelled violence, fights between parents, cramped living conditions, lack of privacy, sexual harassment and corporal punishment while identifying home and school as unsafe places.
The study, ‘Promoting Safe Communities: Mapping with children in Mumbai’ was carried out by Delhi-based NGO, Action for Children’s Environments (ACE), and was commissioned and funded by UNICEF.
The organisation studied Lallubhai Compound in Mankhurd, Rafi Nagar slum in M-East ward and Dahisar’s Shivaji Nagar slum in R-North Ward. Data was collected in those communities by three Mumbai-based NGOs – Committed Communities Development Trust, Pratham Mumbai Education Initiative and Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action. The report was released on Thursday in Mumbai by Seema Vyas, Member Secretary, Maharashtra State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights.
Beginning in 2014, the organisations surveyed a total of 9,478 people living in 1,881 households, each of which have an average of 5.28 members. The communities were chosen keeping in mind poor socio-economic indicators, low score on Human Development Index, acute poverty and their location in risky areas. The study evaluated the child-friendliness of each locality’s infrastructure using seven parameters — safety and security, protection, environment, health, education, play and recreation, and participation and empowerment. Children were trained to conduct surveys and observe their surroundings at Child Resource Centres run in the communities by NGOs. Children then conducted surveys in 1,307 households.
“They observed their environment and were able to bring out observations, which professional researchers could not,” said Sudeshna Chatterjee of ACE. Pooja Pasi, 17, a resident of Shivaji Nagar, said, “Our parents were opposed to us going out and mapping out safe and unsafe areas in the locality. They would tell us, ‘you are girls, how can you go out like this?’” she said.
Eventually, Pasi and her friends managed to win over their parents and like their counterparts in Rafi Nagar and Lallubhai Compound, walked around their communities with checklists. Both boys and girls reported frequent bullying and sexual harassment by older children on their route to school. The report quoted children citing unsafe routes as a major reason behind dropping out of school.
The study found that 33 per cent boys and 66 per cent girls surveyed reported fear of teachers. Punishment from teachers aside, the study also reported an instance endemic to Mankhurd.
“Adolescents in Lallubhai Compound declared the school to be an unsafe space due to reported instances of teachers and principals being attacked by local goons, within the school premises,” states the report. At Rafi Nagar, which abuts the Deonar dumping ground, 13-year-old Mehboob Rehmani said children his age work as labourers. In his estimation, 90 per cent of children living in Rafi Nagar scour the dump for scrap, which they then sell to dealers. Pasi said after endlessly petitioning officials at MHB Colony police station, she managed to get them to increase patrolling crack down on men teasing and harassing girls and women. Rehmani said a lot of his ragpicker friends are now enrolled in school. “Children who used to work as labourers are now learning to dance at the CRCs,” he said.