Brief Us About The Successful Journey Of CRY And Its Mission?
CRY-Child Rights and You has been actively working for the rights of underprivileged Indian children for over 40 years now. Founded in 1979 by a flight attendant with a seed capital of Rs 50 (< 1 GBP), CRY was one of the first non-profit organisations in India to not depend on any foreign grants or funding, but to raise funds for its work entirely from middle class Indian citizens. Today, at CRY, we are still prime movers in community philanthropy: more than 80% of our funds are raised in small gifts from Indians around the world. In addition, we believe in mobilizing people from all walks of life to come together to take action for India’s children – as donors, volunteers, researchers, journalists and concerned citizens.
CRY has played the role of a social innovator, an incubator and a catalyst. Apart from the direct impact on over 3 million children, CRY has nurtured and developed countless individuals, organizations and networks that are working for social transformation across India.
What Are The Programs You Undertake To Ensure Child Rights And Welfare?
In terms of our work, CRY has an unwavering focus on reaching “the last child” –i.e. the most marginalized children. We work with children in remote, rural areas, children in conflict zones and urban slums or backward communities. It is our experience that in situations of extreme deprivation and struggle for the entire community, it is always children who are the most vulnerable and neglected. Hence our interventions address the root causes of inequity and deficits to ensure that children have a healthy life, a chance at a proper education, a space to be heard and a safe and secure environment to grow up in. Our goal areas include education, health, child labor, malnutrition and our interventions also address issues like child trafficking, abuse and violence.
What Is The Most Common Issue Adversely Impacting Kids Across The Country Today? How Does Your Organization Aspire To Tackle The Same?
Access to basic education for many children across the country continues to be a challenge even today. Even though the numbers of enrolment in schools have increased, a section of both boys and girls, especially those between the ages of 14 to 18 years are compelled to drop-out of schools only to end up working as child labour across various industries including that of agriculture, or to get married.
India also has the maximum number of malnourished children in the world – 1 in every 3 children are malnourished. The situation is extremely critical because the effects of malnourishment are irreversible if they occur at a young age. If not death, it leads to permanent disabilities that render the children ill for the rest of their lives.
To address the multiple issues that confront children today, CRY’s interventions focus on the following:
- Building the agency of children
- Provision of interim services to meet the immediate, critical needs of children e.g. providing non-formal education or support classes to school drop-outs.
- Influencing knowledge, attitudes and practices of parents that impinge on children’s rights e.g. superstitions detrimental to breastfeeding practices or attitudes that keep girls out of school.
- Mobilisation and empowerment of underprivileged communities to increase engagement on children’s issues.
- Capacity building of service providers, e.g. teachers, to ensure delivery of quality services
- Creation or participation in networks and alliances to enable child-friendly policies.
What Are The Challenges You Are Facing To Implement Your Social Projects?
There are many challenges in implementing projects and just some of them are mentioned below:
- Often community level awareness on health and nutrition is quite low. This together with superstition, customary norms and age old tradition make it quite challenging to discuss sensitive issues and inculcate new behaviours and practices.
- Child marriage is also deep rooted in the patriarchal social set up, making it difficult to address this issue
- Vacant positions and lack of proper infrastructure in the health system disrupts the process of smooth service delivery to communities and children and advocacy with the government system is needed to mitigate this challenge.
- Service providers, like Anganwadi workers, are not always trained adequately and hence their capacity building needs to be focused on so that they can be effective
- There are lesser number of upper primary schools and secondary schools in many of our intervention areas and are located at a far off distance. Transportation facilities are also lacking. In such scenario, parents do not find it safe to send their children especially girls to schools.
- In many programme, migration of community members poses a challenge for the successful implementation of the project. It becomes difficult to track and ensure retention of children in schools or whether critical health services, like immunisation, is reaching them
- Some of the target villages are remote and difficult to reach. This makes the project facilitation process time consuming and challenging. Moreover, services don’t reach these areas.
Do You Think CSR Implementation Has Been Smooth In The Country Till Now? How Could It Be Enhanced?
India has a unique corporate social responsibility (CSR) provision under the Indian Companies Act 2013, which mandates CSR for any company meeting certain profit, turnover or net-worth criteria.
While the CSR clause is a breakthrough initiative in the CSR arena, there are some limitations to the clause which need to be debated and addressed, namely:
- A mandatory CSR spend can result in an increase in the focus on quantifying CSR vs. a qualitative assessment of what makes strategic sense for the company. It also runs the risk of diluting the attention on how companies make their profit rather than focusing on how they spend their profit. CSR has to be strategic and linked to the business.
- The Act recommends that the company shall give preference to the local areas around where it operates. This may result in skewed resource allocation as most business houses and manufacturing facilities are located in developed states while the resource requirement is more in the under-developed states where industrial presence is limited.
- The Act also encourages companies to implement their CSR activities by establishing their own trusts/societies. However, social and development issues are often complex and local civil society organizations are likely to be better equipped to understand these unique issues and offer solutions for the same. In addition, many of these civil society organizations operate from the larger framework of social justice and not just on a project or activity bases. Therefore, partnering with such organizations will enable bringing in the aspect of social sustainability into the CSR strategy.
- The clause does not address core business impacts as set out by the guidelines developed by the Government itself and the state’s duties in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which India endorsed in 2011.
In addition to some of the limitations in the law itself, there is a lack of a unified view on CSR which includes lack of clarity on the definition of CSR, its agenda, actions and reporting. The question for corporations and CSR practitioners is how to craft CSR strategies that reflect a company’s business values, while addressing social, humanitarian and environmental challenges.
A few key elements to be considered are given below:
- Integration of responsibility within the long term objectives of the organization. Its alignment with vision and mission of the organization.
- Structure, role definition: Who within the company is responsible for crafting, driving CSR strategy and implementation?
- Stakeholders: Which different stakeholders will the CSR strategy involve, influence and impact?
- Clear objectives and programme design
- Communication – internal and external for synergy, adoption and extension of agenda
- Reviewing mechanism – measurement of impact, reporting
Would You Like To Share Any Motivational Story Of Your Foundation?
There are so many stories of hope enabled by CRY from across the country that are inspiring:
CRY had been working to tackle the issue of child marriage even before the pandemic hit. Here’s an astounding example of courage displayed by one of the girls from our communities who stood up for herself and rallied timely intervention.
Sana* a spunky 16-year-old living in a quaint little village called Lohagal near Ajmer, belongs to the scheduled caste community. After her father’s death due to tuberculosis, Sana’s mother became the sole breadwinner for the family. Making ends meet was tough and there were too many mouths to feed. That’s when, Sana’s family decided to get her married – against her and her mother’s wishes.
Being a part of the CRY children’s collective, Sana did not want to give in to her circumstances. So she mustered up the courage to take a stand against child marriage and made a phone call to CRY; explaining her situation and asking for intervention. CRY officials immediately visited Sana’s family, helped them understand the legal consequences of enforcing child marriage and put a stop to the impending nuptials at once.
Today everyone applauds Sana for the courage she displayed. Since then, Sana has been a savior in disguise for other young girls. Being extremely skilled at applying henna, she gets called to many weddings in the nearby villages, where she inconspicuously informs the young brides about the helpline number. She says, “Thanks to CRY, I became more informed as an individual and was able to understand the adverse impact of child marriage. Today, I dream of completing my education and become a teacher so that I can support my mother.”
Any Information That You Would Like To Share With Our Readers?
The pandemic will leave a trail of destruction for India’s underprivileged children in its wake and the crisis is far from being over. CRY has already begun planning to address the long term repercussions on children in the aftermath of the Coronavirus outbreak, but we need the help of all individuals to put our plans into action.
Children are the unseen victims of this crisis and their struggles are the invisible costs this pandemic will claim. Let’s come together to fight on their behalf and ensure that they grow up happy and healthy.
Throw Some Light On Your Future Initiatives
The COVID-19 pandemic poses an extraordinary challenge to the world. The virus has upended the lives of children and their families everywhere, placing a huge strain on already overburdened health and education systems. Besides this, the country is also facing an economic slowdown. These twin situations will have a significant bearing on the lives of children and their families. In the near future, CRY’s programmes will be required to address these challenges.
To ensure that this doesn’t become a child rights crisis in the long term, we’ve created a resilience & recovery plan for underprivileged children that focuses on their health, nutrition, education and safety.
Health & Nutrition
The closure of government mechanisms like primary healthcare centres and the school midday meal scheme has severely affected children’s health. They’re unable to get proper nutrition, timely immunization or proper healthcare and thus, we’ll focus on:
- Ensuring regular vaccinations to avoid susceptibility to other deadly diseases
- Providing timely care to lactating and pregnant mothers
- Addressing malnutrition to reduce infant/child mortality
- Ensuring awareness around menstrual hygiene
Children are experiencing an unexpected gap in their schooling that has thrown their academic year out of focus. They will struggle with a massive learning deficit and thus, we’ll focus on:
- Ensuring children don’t drop out and get stuck in the cycle of poverty
- Addressing the significant psychological distress, they may be dealing with
- Looking into academic inclusion to combat religious or gender discrimination
Safety & Protection
During any disaster, children’s vulnerability to abuse and exploitation increases and it’s important to ensure their safety. Thus, we’ll focus on:
- Rehabilitating children who’ve experienced separation from their families during the lockdown
- Addressing the needs of children who are at risk of suffering neglect at the hands of their caregivers
- Identifying and handling cases of children being forced into child labor or pushed to become child brides to reduce the financial pressure on the family
- Strengthening child protection mechanisms at the village as well as district levels
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not represent those of Diggaj Media. The pictures are provided by the author and is not authorized to be used by anyone else.