“I asked you for help, and you told me you would
If I told you the things he did to me.
You asked me to trust you, and you made me
Repeat them to fourteen different strangers.
I asked you for help and you gave me
A doctor with cold hands
Who spread my legs and stared at me
Just like my father.”1
“This is the thing God blessed me with, so I have to work like this. I can’t do something else…It is my fate and nobody can change this. I was born into this community so we don’t know what else to do. We have to do this and nothing else… I don’t want to go to the looms but there is no other way2.”
“They call me low caste and make me sit at the back. I am not given books. They tease and tell me that there is no use my studying because I am a low caste. Some boys tease me and say, “Woh dekho. Doctor jaa raha hai.” I don’t like this village but I can’t go anywhere.” (A child in a caste-ridden village)
These are voices of children, spelling out abuse, physical, including sexual, and mental humiliation and discrimination. These are voices that are sunk in apathy and hence frightening because there is a stoic acceptance of their fate, and this is a stoicism that should be repelled for it erodes their inherent dignity. These are voices that speak of a living nightmare, of days and nights in hell, and it is the adults who have created this hell for children. The world children inhabit is not a world of their making. Children embrace families, culture, values, education, not out of choice but out of compulsion and we expect them to face all that this world puts them through.
What is it that children should never have to face? The very fact that this question is being asked bears testimony to the fact that all is not right with the world in which our children live. Our world is not safe for them and this is something children should never have to face. As concerned parents, educators, and members of the society, it is important for us to create a world that is safe for our children. This being the case, it is the sole responsibility of us adults to create for them a world that is nourishing and nurturing. We need to turn our world into a place that gives them the courage to dare and to dream and into a world that cherishes these dreams and not a world that turns these dreams into nightmares. We need to make our world safe for children.
What exactly does ‘a safe world’ mean? A safe world does not mean shutting our children away from the ups and downs of life, from betrayal, sorrow, disappointment, death, illness, injury, diseases, natural disasters, wars, etc. All these are part of life and children, if exposed to these in the course of their lives, can be helped to cope with them and build their resilience, physical, mental, and emotional.
A safe world is a world that respects the dignity of our children. It is a world where discrimination and abuse are unknown. It is a world where children feel secure, loved, and more important, accepted; a world where children have the right to remain children and are not drawn into adult responsibilities and games in their childhood phase and very often against their will; a world where every child that is born has a right to a childhood that is peaceful and secure; a right to play and leisure; a right to an education; to freedom from fear; a world where each child has a right to hope and to dream. Children should never have to face a world that does not promise them the above.
1. Pinki Virani, Bitter Chocolate.
2. Small Change: Bonded Labour in India’s Silk Industry.
The author heads an alternative school in Sion, Mumbai called Little Angels SAPLING. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.