A new social media campaign from UNICEF India is seeking to raise awareness and mobilize a collective effort to #ENDviolence against children, with special focus on sexual violence against girls.
On 19 August 2013, UNICEF India launched the ‘Time to Sound the Red Siren’ campaign in an ongoing effort to raise awareness about violence against children. The month-long social media campaign is an effort to break the silence around sexual abuse and violence against children, girls in particular. It calls upon citizens to help #ENDviolence and create safe, protective environments for children. On their campaign page, UNICEF India explains the campaign's raison d'etre:
There is no place for sexual violence against children in the 21st century. Yet it continues to destroy lives in every country and at all levels of society. Too often, however, it is an invisible problem because it occurs within homes and families or because people turn a blind eye to it, or simply fail to report it due to fear or stigma.
The #ENDviolence campaign Initiative seeks to bring together new ideas, new thinking, and new examples of where people can focus their efforts and energies to raise awareness about sexual abuse in India and bring about an end to it.
This is not a one-off effort, but a collective effort and a sustained initiative that will shine an ever brighter light on an issue that has remained invisible for far too long.
In a public service announcement video, Bollywood legend and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan came out strongly in support of the Red Siren campaign and pointed out that “just because you can't see violence against children doesn't mean it isn't there”. He appealed to citizens to “make the invisible visible” and speak out against child abuse.
On Twitter, netizens are using the campaign hashtag #ENDviolence to tweet, retweet and speak up against child abuse. UNICEF India is using the platform to educate and raise awareness, not only by sharing data pertaining to crimes against children and girls, but also breaking some of the commonly held beliefs and myths pertaining to child abuse:
— UNICEF India (@UNICEFIndia) August 19, 2013
— UNICEF India (@UNICEFIndia) August 23, 2013
Children need to be equipped to deal with violence and speak up against violence and sexual abuse, Dora Giusti, UNICEF India #ENDviolence
— UNICEF India (@UNICEFIndia) August 22, 2013
Sonia Sarkar (@soniasarkars), an advocate for health and development issues, spoke about the discrimination and abuse faced by a large section of girls in the Indian society:
Millions of girls in India face obstacles in their lives, experiencing various forms of discrimination, exploitation and abuse.#ENDviolence
— sonia sarkar (@soniasarkars) August 22, 2013
Women's Web (@womensweb), a community of progressive Indian women, tweeted:
#EndViolence: 1 in 2 girls do not complete grade 10 in school, 20% of girls aged 15-19 (and married) have suffered sexual violence at home
— Women's Web (@womensweb) August 28, 2013
An active conversation is underway on UNICEF India's Facebook page with netizens discussing protective environments for children and how to empower them against sexual abuse and violence.
Educate ur children whom nd wen to say No or yes nd in wat situations.Talk to children,make them confident thru talks,tel dem d pros n cons of tricky situations,be a gud frnd to kids alongwith responsible parents
Yo Singh Chauhan also underlined the importance of communication. He wrote:
communication can play a major role in stopping this darkest of dark crimes . we should constantly communicate with our young ones and make them aware of the differences between the touch of love and the touch of a pervert mind.
Interestingly, the week also saw the launch of the Parliamentarians’ Group for Children (PGC) in India where parliamentarians came forward to champion the cause of child rights. According to the invite issued by the group:
The primary focus of the Group is to bring about policy awareness and changes to ensure that children have the necessary protection and support to be able to exercise their rights. The PGC will be unique in that it will be able to promote the cause of children at the highest law making forum of the country, the Parliament.
Furthermore, Smt. Vandana Chavan, the convener of the group, pointed out that the PGC would also be a mechanism for both protecting child rights as well for monitoring various children-related programmes across the country. She said:
“Through this group Parliamentarians will be able monitor programmes in their constituencies, push for enhanced resources for children’s programmes and advocate for child-centric policies. The PGC will work as a mechanism for the promotion of awareness, fulfilment and protection of the rights of all children, and have an India fit for children,”
This is indeed a heartening first step in the journey to secure child rights in India, to provide children with a safe and secure childhood, free of violence, abuse and the silence of shame and denial. It is indeed time to sound the Red Siren.