13 Aug 2013

Living in the dark

“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” - Helen Keller

* Manasi Jadhav

My attitude towards those less abled than myself has been a shortcoming in my worldview of things that exist around me. Every time we come across a challenged person we stop and stare, knowingly or unknowingly. Our attention gets diverted from what we are doing and our reactions vary between compassion, sympathy and sometimes even pity. For no real reason, we get awkward around those we think our different from us. 

Reality differs.

An eye opener and outlook changer for me was during my participation at CHILDLINE’s awareness programme on the issue of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). Over the years, CHILDLINE has conducted awareness programs on this issue in approximately 200 schools across Mumbai. Understanding the importance of spreading awareness among all children, CHILDLINE realized the need to address differently abled children as they are more prone to abuse and need to be educated on subjects concerning their safety.

On 11th July 2013, CHILDLINE conducted their first session with disabled children at the Helen Keller Institute for Deaf and Deaf blind located at Mahape, Mumbai. This was when I got the opportunity to interact with the children and empower them on topics such as Safe Touch, Unsafe Touch & Personal Safety Rules. The sessions were arranged for 15 children from the Primary Section & 65 from the Secondary Section. Of these 80 children, some were partially or completely deaf & blind, while some could see clearly but were partially deaf, and others who were visually impaired but could hear fine. The session was conducted by CHILDLINE’s CSA School Awareness Program team – Tanvi Aher and Sneha Kupekar.

As part of this initiative, CHILDLINE took the painstaking effort of creating a module suited for children with disabilities. While using the story telling module to deliver the programme, the story was adapted in a way that had elevated characters from the story to allow visually children to touch the flipchart and understand what the story said, or make it easier for interpreters to better explain the story to other children. A combination of methods was used to ensure each child was equipped with the knowledge of how to keep themselves safe. 

The sessions called for a lot of reactions from the children. While some were in shock, the others giggled on the mention of ‘private parts’. Their questions and reactions were no different from children in other schools. It is the lack of knowledge and outlook that has generated stereotypes about disabled people. 

That day changed my life forever. 

As Helen Keller rightly said “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”, all our lives we live offering pity but it is us who live in the dark, not the visually challenged child; it is us who don’t listen, not the hearing impaired kid.”

CHILDLINE is doing great work in ensuring that all children are treated equally and are equipped with knowledge on their safety. I was proud and glad to have made a real difference to the lives of children. 

*Manasi Jadhav is the Communication Officer at CHILDLINE India Foundation