A team of five students of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur have developed a workshop kit to spread awareness about sexual abuse of children.
Sexual abuse among children, though rampant, remains a taboo subject in India. At least 46% children are subjected to sexual abuse, but most don’t report the assaults to anyone.
Jhumkee Iyengar, who is guiding the team, said the workshop kit is self-sufficient and can be used by anyone with basic communication skills, affinity towards children and an interest in educating kids – teachers, NGO volunteers and school counsellors.
Iyengar is a faculty in the Design Program at IIT Kanpur where she teaches post-graduate design students a course that she conceptualised and created on Human Centered Design.
“Children in the age group of 8-12 years and in a group of 30-35 can be benefitted in a single session,” Iyengar said.
“The central message to kids is that being abused is not their fault and that they should freely discuss their problems with parents or teachers. Our underlying vision is to save a child’s innocence through knowledge,” the professor added.
The team developed the kit after extensive research and field studies, which included talking to psychologists, counsellors, teachers, parents and doctors along with holding focus group interviews in Kanpur slums. The initiative was a part of a year-long project that culminated in April 2015.
The workshop includes lessons on personal safety, respecting one’s body and overcoming guilt. It has been designed in a way such that it’s playful, educative and interactive, and also helps the teacher tackle the embarrassment that’s likely to accompany the subject.
“The content has been approved by subject experts and psychologists,” Iyengar said.
“We tested the product internally and iteratively as it was being defined and refined. It was also tested by the staff of an NGO on the children they serve. Pilot testing is being done in schools and the product is being further refined,” shared Prof Iyengar.
The team comprising of Apoorva Aggarwal, Mitali Bhasin, Sneha Parhi, Sachin NP and Swayamsiddha Panigrahi said it was difficult for them to read about child sexual abuse and understanding the current situation was an emotionally draining process.
“Sexual abuse has so many wrong notions attached to it. So, spreading awareness about this issue is definitely of paramount importance. For instance, the middle, upper middle class societies are quick to dismiss child sexual abuse as a problem of the lower classes,” Bhasin said.
Aggarwal said she too had gone through one such harrowing experience when she was a child.
“As a child, there were instances when I was subjected to uncomfortable scenarios that disturbed me for weeks but I was unable to react to the situation at the time. In retrospect, my parents always did everything in my best interests but something was missing,” Aggarwal said.
“While they spared no efforts to send me to the best school of the city, my mom, dad, sister – no one – ever told me how to guard myself from the world. Somewhere they hesitated in giving me that one important life lesson,” she added.
Currently available in English, the kit can be translated into different Indian languages.