We demand Child Protection Systems’: Mumbai’s teen leaders

Functional Child Protection Committees could have helped during the lockdown when the problems of children increased rapidly. They just weren't that many.

This Child Rights Week, Citizen Matters brings to you voices from three young community leaders. This is the second story of the series.

I am Shimon Patole, living in the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) colony of Lallubhai Compound.

Many areas of our community are unsafe from the point of view of children. This was also evident in the community mapping of safe and unsafe spaces done by the children themselves in 2018. Hence our children’s collective, the Bal Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, which works at the community level, has been working to make our area safe over the last 5 years with the help of the non-profit Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA).

We have been working with the aim to help children develop leadership qualities, work together in groups and strengthen networks with different stakeholders, such as the corporators, police officers and schools, to drive change.  

Caption: Shimon and his child saathis present a letter to the Child Protection Officer at the police station

Child Protection Committees

We have also been working to create a Child Protection Forum at the community level with NGOs and active citizens. A Government of Maharashtra Resolution 2014 mandates the formation of Child Protection Committees (CPCs) at the ward-level to protect children from all forms of exploitation and abuse. 

To promote awareness about this committee and why we need to form it, we staged the street play ‘CPC kya hai’ in different communities. In the play, we highlighted issues children face, talked about the protection system needed and how to form CPCs. 

We also reached out to different authorities. We wrote a letter to the Supervisor of the anganwadis and met her to inform her of her duties towards the Child Protection Community. We also met the Corporator of the area and informed him of his duties as the Chairman of the committee and told him that we would not like to stop at just three CPCs, but create more such safety networks at the community level. We also met the Mayor of the city and asked for the creation of such communities in the 224 electoral wards of Mumbai.

The need for the CPC is evident when we look at the rising crime rates against children. With the rise in child labour, child marriage, sexual, domestic and verbal abuse, and discrimination among children, many are growing up in unsafe environments.

Apart from this, there are no open spaces, playgrounds and libraries for the overall development of children. It is important to ensure the setup of these spaces for children. 

Child protection is every person’s responsibility, and those in power have to be held accountable. In my experience, in many cases the elected leaders did not even know about the GR on CPCs. Our leaders need to understand and share the problems of children. If CPCs are inactive (not holding meetings or not doing any work) they need to be made active. Functional CPCs could have helped during the lockdown when the problems of children increased rapidly.

Our collective has always tried to take ahead the questions of children and their overall development.  We demand that CPCs be constituted at every level.

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