UNICEF India’s programmatic approach to child protection aims to build a protective environment in which children can live and develop in the full respect of their fundamental rights.
Translated into action, this approach led to a multilayered programme whose scope is to understand and address the multiple vulnerabilities of children in need of special protection rather than tackle only their immediate manifestations. UNICEF Child Protection Programme in India focuses mainly on three areas of intervention: child labour, child trafficking, and children in difficult circumstances.
In the area of Child Labour, projects implemented in various states of the country adopt an essentially holistic approach, combining strategies aimed not only to the withdrawal of children from work, but also to enhance cummunities’ awareness, ownership and collective action for the protection and promotion of children rights.
Existing strategies include: a) Promotion of education as both, key preventive measure and essential component for the rehabilitation of released children; b) Addressing poverty related factors through the promotion of self-help-groups; c) Advocacy and social mobilisation for the elimination of child labour.
In Uttar Pradesh, for instance, this strategy led to an increase of more than 47 per cent in school enrolment and attendance among the villages targeted by the ongoing UNICEF child labour elimination intervention. Over 120 Alternative Learning Centers (ALC) have been established in order to facilitate mainstreaming of out-of-school children into formal education and through them more than 24,000 children have been able to go back to school .
Moreover, over 1000 Self-Help-Groups have been established and they are now playing a crucial role in reducing indebtedness among poor rural families. Women’s empowerment is also showing to be instrumental to the well-being of children as a whole. With the support of UNICEF, for example, 50 per cent of targeted villages have adopted three key-friendly practices, namely an immunization coverage of more than 80 per cent, a school enrollment rate of more than 90 per cent and a sensible increase in the age of marriage.
In the area of child trafficking, UNICEF India supports the Government with a twofold strategy aimed to strengthen rescue mechanisms and reduce at the same time children’s vulnerability to trafficking through a special focus on preventive action.
For this purpose, a National Communication Strategy on child trafficking has been developed and is now being implemented at community-level through UNICEF state offices. Manuals have been developed for social workers, judiciary, and counselors working on issues of child trafficking in order to enable rescue and rehabilitation processes which are in the best interest of the child.
As a part of its efforts to formulate strategies and legislations on issues related to child protection, UNICEF also supports the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, to undertake a national level study on children affected by violence and to conduct regional and national consultations on child marriage and to hold dialogues on Offences Against Children Bill.
In the efforts to improve the implementation of the Juvenile Justice System in the country UNICEF is also supporting the government with the development of training materials for the Judiciary and various other functionaries of the system like the child welfare committee members, police and care-takers in the various institutions under the Act.
UNICEF is also collaborating with the Ministry of Women and Child Development on the creation of a website for Missing Children to facilitate tracing and reintegration of lost children.