New Internationalist

The Path to Empowerment

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The main method which Shaishav uses to tackle the issues of child rights, child labour and exploitation is empowerment. Its aim is to provide children with the training and resources to identify their most pressing concerns and campaign on these problems to originate change. In this respect, Shaishav is merely a facilitator; a great deal of the work that we do is instigated by children.

Balsena (meaning children’s collective in Gujarati) is the driving force behind much of our work. With over 2000 members divided into smaller groups around the city, Balsena members regularly come together to discuss the problems they are facing and how best to tackle them. Shaishav strongly encourages solidarity between children of different caste, creed, gender and religion as we believe that children can only make themselves heard through unity and collective strength.

Balsena’s biggest project is a city wide audit of the position of children. With Shaishav’s help, children have come to together to plan, research and write one of the first studies of its kind. It was the children who decided what to investigate, how to research it and how to present the data collected. They conducted house-to-house surveys, held discussion groups in different communities, profiled government services and mapped out all of the issues raised street by street, and have now compiled hundreds of pages of data which they hope to present to the Gujarati government as soon as it is published.

Shaishav strongly believes that it is through empowerment, education, encouraging sensitivity and awareness that we can truly begin to care for children as they deserve and finally make the changes in society that are necessary to provide them with the love and care they deserve.

Peter Norris

Photo and story by Peter Norris.

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