Project for abuse victims resumes


Express News Service

The process of restructuring the Smile Clubs Project, which looks to rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of child sexual abuse, has resumed with the appointment of two welfare officers. Initiated in 2019 by the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), the project was reviewed in July 2020. After the review, the Commission made note of some gaps, particularly in terms of reporting and monitoring of cases. Subsequently, DCPCR chairperson Anurag Kundu put the project on hold and a restructuring took over for filling the gaps which the panel took note of.

“Earlier, we used to pay NGOs to get our work done for the children covered under the project but now we changed the operations and hired welfare officers whose sole responsibility is to rehabilitate children. We resumed services with no cost to NGOs. However, we approach NGOs only when we need them,” Kundu said.

“There was no serious monitoring mechanism in the project and it was turning out to be an expensive model without much outcome. We needed to restructure the project for better results. To make the mechanism easier, welfare officers suggested that we stop unnecessary funding to NGOs and implement
the purpose of the project through officers themselves.”

“I firmly believe that governance cannot be outsourced to NGOs,” he added. When it was launched under the leadership of then chairperson Ramesh Negi, the Commission had conceptualized to establish
smile clubs in every district of Delhi.

For successful implementation, an exploratory baseline study was done by DCPCR and the Human Development Society, an NGO, to facilitate counselling, medication, relevant community outreach, access to education, healthcare, legal and financial aid for the underage survivors in the best possible way. After a round of applications, ten NGOs including SOS Children’s Village India, Muskan Foundation, Saksham, Child Rights & You were chosen by the Commission which had identified 100 child survivors across Delhi. The implementation plans under the project comprised counselling/, community outreach, ensure education, healthcare outreach, skill development, other activities including outdoor visits, sports, financing and legal aid, rapport building with the child and his/her family while maintaining the confidentiality Negi conceded that the unique initiative was hit by twin setbacks of pandemic and initial glitches.

“The Smile Clubs began with approaching 100 survivors in 2019. However, with the unexpected advent of the Covid and the initial glitches in the implementation process, it has been short-lived,” he said.

“However, we can be hopeful about the continuation of this much-needed state-sanctioned initiative because of the DCPCR efforts in restructuring the programme as per the preliminary challenges and the changing circumstances. The initiative received unanimous institutional support.”

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