The wind beneath their wings
'Udaan'(which means to soar, fly or take-off) is a group of motivated youth in the Jaipur Area Development Programme (ADP) who aim to be the agents of change to bring about social transformation in their community. They are an example of how children and youth can ensure Child Participation and Protection within their communities by monitoring the progress of not only sponsored children and families but also the entire community.
The group was formed in July 2015 and functions as a Child Protection Unit (CPU). Their logo is a skein of geese, who assume the shape of ‘V’ when in flight, ensuring that there is no one leader and everyone must take the responsibility of leading and bringing about change. “Today we are leading the group, but tomorrow we want our children’s club to take the lead and we will guide and support them. We want to develop a chain of leadership in our communities,” says Rizwan, President of Udaan group.
“We have been part of World Vision India since a young age, either through the children’s club, trainings or through the child sponsorship programme, but we wanted to do more. That’s when we consulted the World Vision India Staff and he guided us to form this youth group,” says Rizwan, President of Udaan. The group currently works in 4 communities in Jaipur and is connected to 21 children’s clubs and 341 registered children. They meet on the first of every month to discuss and take up any issues brought forward by the leaders of the children’s club or other members of the community. They recently opened their own bank account and each member contributes Rs. 100 per month. This money is used by the group to loan out without paying any interest to needy members and families and also for other programmes when necessary.
In the one year that Udaan has been functioning, the group has become a model group for other cluster level groups. They have handled cases that required medical and financial assistance, participated in identifying and enrolling several children into schools, conducted awareness workshops for children in government schools on Personal Safety, organised rallies and street plays on education, child rights, sanitation, etc. Apart from this they also help members of the community get access to government pension schemes and also register the youth for short term courses in information technology, health and nutrition, beautician and tailoring classes, etc. “We try to identify deserving youth who are interested in doing these courses, so that through World Vision India we can help these youth and their family experience economic development,” says Salma, Remedial Education Centre (REC) teacher and member of Udaan.
Shibba says, “Now people identify us as children of World Vision, even the adults listen to us. There are some parents who still don’t want to send their children to school. But then we give them our example- If our mother’s didn’t send us to school then we wouldn’t be able to achieve so much and help them. We explain to them that when their kids grow up they can be like us.”
The younger leaders of the children’s group still feel that it will take a while for their voices to be heard; hence when faced with a difficult problem, they approach the Udaan members for support and guidance. “There are some things that we feel uncomfortable to discuss with our family. We feel more comfortable to discuss these issues with the Udaan group members because they are slightly older to us. Parents generally ignore it or tell us to forget about it like many girls stop going to school because of being harassed. But now because we spoke about this issue, eve teasing has reduced in the community to an extent, now girls know whom to approach,” says 16-year-old Sitara, leader of a children’s club and a sponsored child studying in Grade 12.
“World Vision India is with us, so we need not worry. We are doing good work so we don’t have to get scared,” says Ayaan another member of the children’s club. “Community members see our work and know that we raise a voice against certain issues like child labour and domestic violence, and they think twice before indulging in such violence, because they know that community members will reported such issues to us,” says Rizwan Khan. Through colourful paintings of child rights and the child helpline no.1098, plastered over several walls in all 20 communities of the World Vision India in Jaipur, children and community members have become more open in reporting cases of abuse and violence. The ADP continues to partner with organisations such as ChildLine, focusing on child protection issues, to organise meetings between the government representatives and beneficiaries to discuss problems and offer solutions. Understanding the vital role of schools in child protection and participation, World Vision has formed nine children’s clubs in four schools, and has a total of 93 children’s clubs across Jaipur.
Despite being a budding new group, Udaan hopes to acquire more training and skill development along with networking support through World Vision to fulfil their aim of expanding their area of work to all 20 communities where World Vision is currently working within Jaipur and even outside Jaipur someday.
“We know that World Vision India can’t stay with us forever. We are the future of our community. We will take forward World Vision’s work," says Sitara, 16 year old, sponsored child and monitor of her Children's group.