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In 1982, Mr. Sanat Kumar Sinha visited the observation homes in Bihar to do a comparative study of various institutions for children and to find out the possible alternatives that could ensure effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act. He then founded the organization Bal Sakha in 1988 with the view to protect the rights of the children. The project holder is a member of State Selection Committee for the implementation of Juvenile Justice Act in Bihar and also the member of State Monitoring Committee on child trafficking and sexual exploitation of women. This Resource Organization is situated in Patna with several field offices at district level. In the last 2 years, they have initiated community level intervention in 10 selected villages of Patna, Munger and Bhagalpur districts in Bihar.
Bihar is one of the leading states in India on implementation of integrated child protection schemes. The state government of Bihar has signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the government of India in 2010 for implementation of integrated child protection schemes. Bal Sakha believes that 35% children in conflict with the law are falsely implicated and 35% of the rest had no criminal intentions,. It is understood that children are struggling with their parents for their livelihood and they have experienced exploitation by the upper caste people in the villages. 80% of children in conflict with the law are involved with property related offences which are mainly means of survival for them.
The Juvenile Justice Boards have been constituted and are functional in all the 38 districts of the State. The key issues are:
- Lack of confidence amongst the JJB members & the Principal magistrate is overpowering.
- Lack of official support staff to support the functioning of the JJB’s.
- Records of Juveniles delayed & frequent change of Principal Magistrates.
- Proving the juvenility records is delayed by the medical board at the district level.
With CRY support, Bal Sakha has initiated community level intervention in 10 villages across 2 districts [Patna & Bhagalpur] to develop community based mechanisms to create safe environment in the community for children. In these 10 villages BAL SAKHA is reaching out to 1573 children with key focus on education, stopping child marriage and mainstreaming the child labor.
- To enhance the standard of the public institutions meant for the juvenile and mainstreaming children into the community.
- To do advocacy with the government to activate the CWC, JJB and other apparatus of the JJ systems in the state.
- To enhance the capacity of the personnel engaged in the JJ systems like CWC/JJB members, Police, SJPU members etc.
- To provide knowledge about child rights & child protection in the the operational area.
- To make government and non-government schemes accessible to the community.
- To develop community based mechanism for child rights & child protection issues.
Achievements & Impact in the Review Period
Since it’s inception, BAL SAKHA has been ensuring protection of child rights. They strongly believe that public institutions are a short term mechanism for protecting children from potential abuse and exploitation. They also believe that family is the best place for a child’s natural growth and development. And to do that, the community must be educated and proactive to take action for the best interest of the child. The community must be a safety net for each child, so that each child grows up in a protective environment. Thus, the organization has started to focus at the community level as the source area of the child rights violations.
Some of their major achievements include:
To develop the community based mechanism and to create a protective environment BAL SAKHA adopted some strategic choices in this review period, which are as follows:
- Running the (Child Protection Committee) CPC and engaging with the out of school children (it’s a community demanded process to engage with children of 6-14 years who are out of school, irregular, potential drop outs and child labor).
- Capacity building of the adolescent group members.
- Formation of village level small committees and empowering them to monitor the local status of child rights in their community.
- Engagement with the schools for implementation of the RTE act .
- Liaison with relevant stakeholders like ICDS workers, CDPO, Police to sensitize them towards protection issues.
The team has two fold mechanisms to address the protection issues. One is indirect community intervention and second one to move the coalition to enhance the quality of the Observatory Homes and bring positive changes in the lives of the children in institutions. They have been also able to empower the children to express their views on issues impacting their lives. On the other hand through participation and mobilization of NGOs & media, the organization has been able to get the issues of children in institutions out in the open and provided children an open forum to share their experience of living in institutions.
This has led to people coming forward to help change the lives of children and government officials becoming more accountable. In some cases, buildings have been approved for Observatory Homes and children were provided food etc. Positive outcomes of the intervention:
- Girls are working as agents of change, to change the mindset of their parents and community. Their involvement has ensured prevention of 4 child marriages.
- Through the process of advocacy, one new ICDS center has been opened in kamta chowk.
- Teachers in Bhojipur Middle school committed not to repeat corporal punishment to the students in this school.
- 2 teachers have been appointed in Chakpul Primary school.
- Mothers and adolescent girls are provided with vocational training.
- 63 drop out children enrolled in schools ( 6-14 years and 14-18 years).
- 52 children got birth registration certificates.
- 72 never enrolled children were enrolled in schools
- Police, DCPU members, PRI became more sensitized on child protection issues
- A better coordination has been established amongst all the stakeholders since their participation in ‘Multi stakeholders Meet ‘in the respective districts.
- Police and other concerned departments are inviting BAL SAKHA for training and seeking other technical assistance.
Born to parents who are both physically challenged, restricted to selling eggs and working as daily labor in an agricultural field, it became increasingly difficult for Priyanka to continue her education. In the village of Bishunpur Pakri (Bihar), finding a groom is the most important objective in the lives of the parents of a girl. The more educated the girl is, the tougher it is to find a groom for her, and needless to say, higher is the expense towards the marriage. So they agreed to Priyanka’s Uncle’s suggestion and began groom hunting.
The 14 year old was then studying in middle school & an active member in the Parivartan Kishori Manch (Children’s group). She shared her plight with her peers in the group during a session. Usha, the Bal Sakha staff member in charge of this particular group, immediately spoke to her family about the consequences of an early marriage. On 21st January 2016, Bal Sakha organized a community level meeting with adolescent girls and invited Priyanka’s parents for the program. During the course of this program, they were counseled by the facilitator. The other members of the children’s group also raised their voice against child marriage.
Priyanka’s parents were not convinced so easily. They stuck to the opinion that they wouldn’t find a better groom in the future for her. The facilitator asked if the groom could wait for Priyanka to attain her legal age for marriage. They were also briefed about the stringent laws on child marriage and punitive provisions. Finally they became ready to postpone the marriage and agreed to support Priyanka to continue her studies.
Focus 1: To reduce child labor in 10 villages of Patna district & preventing child marriages across 10 villages through comprehensive programs:
- To develop linkages with the DCPU for formation of the VLCPC and BLCPC.
- To sensitize government officials on implementation of the Act (CLPRA and CMPA).
- To create awareness and sense of responsibility amongst the community and other duty bearers on child labor and child marriage issues.
- To mobilize the community based groups (Bal Suraksha Manch) to take action against child labor and child marriage issues in the community.
- Sensitisation of adolescent girls, local youth, BDO and local police officials , PRI members on child labor and child marriage issues.
- Database development of 14-18 years children who have migrated to other cities and enable tracking.
- Discussion with the parents and encouraging them to re-enroll children back to school.
Focus 2: Fully functional Juvenile Justice system, with specific reference to CWCs, SJPU, DCPUs in 25% operational districts
- To do advocacy for the full bench CWC and JJB in these districts.
- To enhance the capacity of the CWC and JJB members towards discharging their duties.
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