The sun rises, painting the sky in shades of red, and you rise, with a heart bubbling with hope. To brighten your awareness, a daily accompanies your morning cup of coffee. A few minutes into it, you find news engulfing you from the cascade of hope, you succumb to the barbarity that people commit, and you wonder, where we went wrong. ..why ‘being human’ failed to catch up with us in this race….
In conversation with Anu Suraj, whose brainchild Swaraksha tries to rekindle that ray of hope in many. The team works to create an impact and raise awareness among people regarding issues haunting our society and prepares them for bringing a change.
Give a brief info about Swaraksha?
Swaraksha is an initiative against child sexual abuse, registered as a non-governmental organization, operating from 2014. Swaraksha was started off as a public movement by a group of like-minded professionals and concerned individuals, who had joined hands to create awareness and empower young minds as well as adults and the general public.
Through audiovisual techniques, interactive sessions, live demos, theater, arts, workshops, street plays, mimes, dance dramas, puppets, doll and role-plays, games, creative/visual/expressive arts; children of various age groups, teens, and parents were made aware of what is good and bad, how to be assertive, how to deal with situations effectively with presence of mind. Though the movement started off addressing the children and adolescents on personal safety, various other important, inseparable, and related topics are also addressed including cyber safety, substance abuse, menstrual hygiene, mental health, gender equality, body sensitivity and positivity, Pocso, rights and laws, online sexual exploitation, sexual harassment at workplace, digital parenting, teen empowerment, types of abuse, issues like ragging, stalking, bullying, etc. Sessions are given age-wise to kids/ adolescents and there are separate presentations for all age groups. Swaraksha has been working for schools, colleges, other educational institutions, clubs, associations, police departments, law enforcements, parent groups, special schools, student police cadets etc. over the past 6 years. Empowerment has been extended to rural areas and Government schools too.
What was the inspiration or motivation behind starting this NGO?
Swaraksha was started off after a CSA case based on a Bangalore school and rising crimes thereafter everywhere. The need to sensitize and empower children from grassroot levels through education but extending it beyond classroom lectures. Thankfully institutions including that of educational, law enforcements, parental, other associations were also proactively involved in bringing about a change through such a movement.
Swaraksha started off as awareness campaigns for teachers, parents about child sexual abuse. Tell us a little about your campaigns?
The materials for our campaigns came from all over the world. A lot of doctors, psychologists, special education teachers, educationists, IT professionals, lawyers, and homemakers had sent in materials along with our volunteers. They then brainstormed on how the sessions can be imparted age-appropriately. We have our own materials for campaigns. These are delivered age-appropriately through the form of lectures, videos, interactive sessions, live demos. For small kids we use puppets, dolls, role plays to sensitize. We also have presentations, video, and audio. We do participate in events to create awareness through street plays, mimes, dance ensembles, and theater. We also use expressive/creative arts as a therapy to counsel and help.
Presently Swaraksha deals with all issues concerning children. What are the other areas you work on?
When we had started we had targeted primarily the children but we realized that unless we work on several related issues and the general public together there won’t be any massive breakthrough change. So sessions were extended to parent groups, student police cadets, teachers, ayahs, and other no teaching staff. Two of our volunteers who work with differently-abled children to boost their Self- help skills had extended help too through some schools. We also create lots of awareness videos on mental health, dating violence, digital dangers, No-Go-Tell concepts to support our cause. We have made two short movies called “Maya” and “Thanal” for the purpose of spreading relevant messages to society. We also associated with Autism Club to create awareness on Inclusion and create awareness on Autism. We conduct webinars on Digital Parenting and Digital Dangers with professional speakers and we had lots of participants.
What are the methods and techniques you use to bring about the intended change in our society?
- AV techniques
- panel Discussions
- Interactive sessions
- Puppet shows and doll plays
- Dance drama –
- Expressive/Creative/Visual arts
- YouTube videos
Tell us a little about your modus operandi and your association with Kerala Police.
We have covered the majority of schools and a lot of colleges in Ernakulam district. Most of them call us on a repetitive basis. Some gave tie-ups. We have extended our services to rural areas and government schools too. Sessions on self-help had been done to resource persons of KIDS Kottapuram, BIKOS project and to various schools and colleges including clubs and parent organization. Also to Wayanad Police, Cochin Student Police Cadets, Thrissur City, and Rural Police. We had DIG of police from Trivandrum City as a speaker for our Webinars.
A robust team is required for the efforts and work done so far. Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
The Swaraksha team had three things in common “CONCERN” about safety for our children and the “URGE” to do something proactively to bring about a change and “SELFLESS” services to everyone alike. Most of them are professionals who wanted to work for this cause outside their job and we have homemakers too who are very valuable idea generators besides helping to rim the campaigns and support other administration work. We have two volunteers who coordinate virtual activities and two to coordinate those with Preschool children. The team basically made themselves useful and worked towards a common goal. Mostly they volunteer and come forward with many brilliant ideas on a variety of ways to go beyond “lecture mode”.
How we met!….. Through FB. We put FB to positive use and the initial team were all friends and friends if friends of founders and the majority of team members who joined thereafter were through common contacts and some after our activities were published in media and social media platforms. They wrote to us via email and they mandatorily attend 3 sessions before they join. They are also trained on how we operate and given a chance to speak as part of the training
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