Panaji: The UNICEF in Maharashtra has joined hands with Goa Women and Child Development(WCD) to focus on and support in the area of child protection in the State.
Ms. Rajeshwari Chandrasekar Chief Field Officer,UNICEF Maharashtra and Ms. Alpa Vora, Consultant , Child Protection, UNICEF were participating in a discussion on “key challenges around child protection in Goa”, at an on-going training programme on Integrated Child Protection Scheme(ICPS), by WCD on February 12.
They said that during their various meetings with stakeholders, Ms. Vora brought out issues of concerns, namely, unique issue of migrant children who face a whole lot of different issues linked with challenges of livelihood, alcoholism, etc., of their poor parents, or the children themselves.
Need for systemic training
Ms. Vora said that another issue which Goa needs with urgency was “need for systemic training of the workforce...Goa has an ICPS set up in place. But for effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children)(JJ) Act, 2015, the State needs to have a better convergence of different stakeholders.”
Ms. Vora indicated that the UNICEF would step in this area in near future joining hands with Goa WCD and involving corporates and others.
The UNICEF, Maharashtra on February 12 committed to rope in Goa stakeholders of child protection in former's scheduled learning events in Maharashtra on alternative care, repurpose institutions, roles of institutions in the context of repurposing institutional care, etc.
During the deliberations, stakeholders including Child Welfare Committee(CWC) representatives brought out issues like exploitation of vulnerable children of migrants in night markets and flea markets, traditional festivals, beach areas, the huge problem of alcoholism among migrants workforce which leads to domestic violence and consequent fallout on the children, among others.
While the issue of deinstitutionalising children is fine, the problem faced by JJ Boards, CWCs in Goa is under-utilisation of government care home of “Apna Ghar", lack of sufficient foster care facilities, lack of trained counsellors.
Other problems include lack of sufficient caregivers, issues related to transitioning from institutional care to repatriation, integration of foster care and aftercare and above all developing effective monitoring mechanisms.
Repatriation to parent States
North Goa CWC official said that presently they had a major “job” on hand of executing an order of the high court in a petition, which has asked that such migrant children be repatriated to parent States.
“We are identifying if they need childcare or they are to be sent back to their parents or guardians. We have told all educational institutions that after the end of this academic year they have to produce every child before us to take that call,” said Mr. Gurunath V. Dhume, chairman CWC, North.
Speaking to The Hindu later, on the sidelines of the training workshop on JJ Act and ICPS scheme, Ms. Rajeshwari said that UNICEF has been working in 16 States of India with 13 State offices, including one in Maharashtra. The office from Maharashtra can support Goa in the area of child protection, she said.
Support according to needs, problems
Speaking about UNICEF's work in India, Ms. Rajeshwari said that different States have different issues, based on population.
“For instance, in Maharashtra, you have the second largest population of tribals after Madhya Pradesh. Apart from problems of tribals, issues of urbanisation leading to slum areas and their concerns. Therefore, UNICEF tailer-makes support according to needs and problems,” said Ms. Rajeshwari.
In Goa, she said that the WCD Ministry had sought its help in focussing on problems of child protection to the extent that backward integration to education and forward integration to adolescents' empowerment. “Because, eventually after a certain age, these children need to stand on their two feet and that is their empowerment at stake and a big challenge for government.”
She said that the Government of India and UNICEF have worked on a five-year Action Plan which covers at country level universal health, nutrition, education, water supply, sanitation, and child protection.
During the deliberations, she suggested looking out for multi-stakeholder partners such as business, corporate and other stakeholders like bodies like Chambers of Commerce and industry federations could be tapped for professionalising services and in the area of skill development training programmes.