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Kailash Satyarthi launches initiative to create a safe, child-friendly slum community in Pune

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Nobel peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi launched the Bal Mitra Mandal (BMM), a community initiative under the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation to create a safe, child-friendly slum community, in Pune on Thursday.

“My dream is very simple and clear, that every child should be free to be a child and enjoy the fullest of a childhood. This can only be achieved when we make the world a child-friendly place.,” Satyarthi told the Indian Express.

Supported by the online gaming company Games24x7, BMM aims to empowers children and their communities to collectively work towards securing their rights, protecting them from child labour, and child sexual abuse and raise their awareness on education, water, sanitation, hygiene and livelihood. It will cover four densely populated areas–Bhim Nagar, Indira Nagar Barmasell, Rajiv Gandhi and Mental Corner Slum. BMM will also train children to become “child-leaders” who will work towards the benefit of other underprivileged kids.

Satyarthi said that children, especially those who are survivors of various problems, should be at the forefront to bring about a stable and long-lasting sustainable change in society. “We have to build self-confidence within the children–in the villages, the slums, schools and universities. Moreover, they should also feel concern and responsibility for other children around them…They should know their rights, they should speak for themselves and break their silence,” he said.

The Nobel laureate also launched the Arogya Caravan. Supported by the YOU foundation, it aims to raise awareness among women and girls of slums about various government schemes and programmes meant for them and to spread the message of “Surakshit Janani – Surakshit Maharastra”. The awareness programme is designed to be showcased through puppet shows, songs, dance programmes, street plays and community meetings, and will educate one lakh women on maternal health and related schemes in one year. The caravan will reach Lakshmi Nagar, Yashwant Nagar, Ambedkar Basti, Yamuna Nagar, Jadhav Nagar and Jay Prakash Nagar.

Speaking about laws to protect children, Satyarthi said that while the child labour law, the POCSO Act and the Juvenile Justice Act are good laws, the pending Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill 2021, is also a strong law.

The Covid pandemic, large displacement of people due to calamities, sociopolitical disputes and war have opened more avenues for crimes to flourish, and with cyberspace as a primary tool, crimes have overcome geographical boundaries, bypassed international jurisdictions and evaded detection, according to Satyarthi.

“We had an apprehension when people were indoors during the first lockdown, that people might search for child pornographic material. After a study done by some sister organisations, the India–Child Protection Forum, it was found that the demand, supply and consumption of such material had doubled…Our police, investigative agencies, cybercrime agencies and child rights protection agencies should work hand in hand…There should be a nationally coordinated response cell where such bodies collaborate and respond in real time. Internationally, there needs to be international legislation to deal with such crimes in a comprehensive manner and also to have data providers under check,” he said.

The event was also attended by women and child development commissioner Rahul Ranjan Mahiwal, police commissioner Amitabh Gupta, municipal commissioner Vikram Kumar and senior officials of Bajaj Group.

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