31 NSS Volunteers in TN now also ‘Rakshin Fellows’, will help in prevention of child sexual abuse

Thirty one NSS Volunteers chosen from 2500 students across 25 colleges in Tamil Nadu, have been awarded Rakshin Fellowship (Level 2) following successful completion of empowerment program. They are now also called as Rakshin Champions and come from – Guru Nanak College, National Engineering College, Madras Institute of Technology, SRM Easwari Engineering College, Kamraj College of Engineering & Technology, Annamalai University and Vellore Institute of Technology.

Sakshi, a rights based NGO,  through The Rakshin Project, a programme in partnership with the directorate of NSS, Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, launched its pilot phase in March to empower and educate NSS Volunteers across the country to prevent, prohibit and resolve Gender-Based Violence with a focus on Child Sexual Abuse.

The Rakshin Project has three pillars: The Rakshin Fellowship for Education and Skill Building, Resolution Mechanisms for Cultivating Resilience and Sustained Engagement for norming preventive actions. Recognizing that violence begins at home, the Rakshin Project is dedicated to addressing Child Sexual Abuse within the context of the home and the community. Through the Rakshin Fellowship, the NSS volunteers are educated about the multiple facets of prevention of child sexual abuse as they are equipped to become Rakshins — the preventers of Child Sexual Abuse.

The fellowship awarding ceremony held last week was an online event with presence of all the stakeholders: the Ministry, the Educational Institutes, the Funding Partners, Participating Students and their Families. Dr. Amerandra Kumar Dubey, a member of the Central Administrative Tribunal and Former Secretary of the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports who had issued the directions to Sakshi in 2018, was the keynote speaker. The Chief Guests were Shri Rakesh Kumar, Chairman and MD of NLC India Limited and Shri Asit Singh, Joint Secretary, Department of Youth Affairs, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

In her Welcome Address, Dr. Jayashree AG, Head-Tamil Nadu, The Rakshin Project by Sakshi, spoke about “the uniquely designed Rakshin Fellowship Programme, with its 5 levels, 12 certificates, and 18 Modules , spread over 2 years.”

The Participating Students and their Families highlighted their experience and learnings and shared ‘how through the comprehensive modules, questionnaires, surveys, focused group discussions and tasks for peer and community engagement, they had for the first time had conversations amongst the family members and friends, analysing gender-based violence. How they practiced the tools for de-escalating conflict in their real-life scenarios, and how again for the first time they understood the relationship between consent, NO, constitutional right to equality and child sexual abuse. They shared how they had informed their peers on the issues of Child Sexual Abuse, and built a network of people within the family to address the issue of Child Sexual Abuse, if an instance of such were to occur.’

Shri Asit Singh, Jt. Secretary, Dept of Youth Affairs, Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, GOI, in his special address reaffirmed the Ministry focus for empowering the youth in this movement to eradicate child sexual abuse. “In the new guidelines that we are about to revise (and we are revising the entire manual for NSS)  we would like to include this not only as a focus program for NSS but also as a criterion for judging the NSS awards wherein the honorable President of India gives awards to about 30 volunteers and 10 program officers every year on NSS day on 24th September. Sakshi has been doing a wonderful job and today’s event is evidence of what we have been doing and what the Rakshins have been doing in Tamil Nadu. We are partner with Sakshi in other states and our experience with them has been extremely fruitful. I am sure that the partnership with Sakshi will take us to the greater heights of achieving these goals which are so very important for both male and female young children in the country.”

Smita Bharti, Executive Director, Sakshi – a rights-based NGO, charted the next action for the Fellows, “After Each teach two, which we are certifying today, the next stage of The Rakshin Fellowship is Each Teach Ten, where the students, will be equipped to lead conversations around prevention of sexual violence, create safe spaces for disclosure, and secure the child in instances of abuse within their communities.”