One of the crucial aspects that impacts the educational journey of a child is the way diverse spaces around the child functions. Apart from school, a child navigates the world around him or her in their basti, family, community and society. Among the vulnerable communities, the experiences of a child are often affected adversely when she/he navigates several of these spaces.
At Muskaan, we work with several vulnerable communities and thereby sense the need of a safer ecosystem. Simultaneously it is crucial that children’s agency and voices for such a safer ecosystem can also be escalated. With Azad Jugnoo Club (Children’s groups) at the basti level, several issues that hamper the safer ecosystem are being addressed as these groups voice out and express their concerns.
Along with small research and surveys, the azad jugnoo club intends to identify the crucial issues within the basti, it’s reasons and the need assessment for the change that is desired. Thereafter these groups plan an action intervention by either engaging with creative forms of expressions such as theatre or through local advocacy.
If the issues are basti centric or community centric, the interventions are planned with stakeholders such as ward authorities. This also ensures that these groups are not limited to information dissemination but also materializes the issues into a scope of transformation in everyday living reality. An exhibit of this can be the involvement of children’s groups in making a ward plan along with the authorities so that the lens of child protection can be inculcated in such planning.
There is also a space for cross basti visits of children’s groups. Muskaan works around the issues of child protection in about 20 localities and there are range of issues which are similar and at the same time of diverse nature as per the pretext of the community, locality, etc. Having cross basti visits also ensure that these children’s groups can consciously think of the larger and the broader framework of child protection and the range of issues that hamper it in the urban context. The range of issues contain violence in everyday lives (at domestic level, institutional, community, gender-based, etc.) discrimination, exclusion, etc. To work on these issues within a particular children’s group and also collectively (with groups from different localities) is crucial for building the city that is safer for all the children. Hence Azad Jugnoo Club functions at three levels; at the basti level, at an organizational level and at a federation level which is across the city.
To make this feasible, these groups actively engage with bureaucratic stakeholders as collaborations and also through advocacy. Azad Jugnoo Club along with Muskaan works with departments such as Police, School, ICDS (WCD), Ward authorities, BMC, etc. so that the approach of these stakeholders can also be sensitized.
The philosophy that Muskaan incorporates is to ensure that the children who are a vulnerable group can retain their agency and assert the demands that they feel are crucial for their safety across the city. This also inculcates every space in which a child navigates. All spaces of such sorts need to be safe for a child to access and it should be children who live with that vulnerability and thereby they are the ones who should assert to ensure child protection. Hence the involvement of children’s groups in every stage of child protection as Muskaan’s domain work, is a necessary condition that we try to ensure.