GUWAHATI, May 2 � Subjecting children who come from families that have a parent with HIV/AIDS, or are afflicted with some mental disorder to discrimination at school, at the playground or at different social functions is a stark fact. Despite a slew of sensitization efforts to remove this bias, such children still face a lot of hurdles in getting accepted in the mainstream society and hence are deprived of all their basic rights to development and living life with dignity.
This scenario is about to change and new hope awaits such children. To give them a chance at shelter, education and life skills development, Brahmaputra Shelter Home is being set up by the Society for Social Transformation and Environment Protection, a non-governmental organization under the aegis of Lotus Flower Trust, UK at Ahom Gaon here.
Construction of this shelter home which will formally start running from June, is almost complete and initially it will take in 25 destitute children and victims of discrimination. The intake capacity of this shelter home with a difference is 100.
According to Umesh Baruah, the children home coordinator, this shelter home, apart from bringing in children who are discriminated against by the society, will accept street children and children who come from background of abject poverty.
�Guwahati, being the largest city in the NE region, receives an exodus of populations from all the states round the year who see a ray of hope for survival. The children too are one of such groups who are affected either by family disputes or by broken families or wants of survival or lack of care, etc., and come to the city to make their living on their own in the midst of vulnerability to harassment and torture by police, exploitation, substance abuse, and risk of life, diseases, injuries and criminal activities,� said Baruah.
It needs to be mentioned here that a survey conducted by the Society in Guwahati puts the number of destitute children at over 2500 and they live on the streets of the city without any kind of protection. Among these children, those in the age between 4 and 10 years are the most destitute and vulnerable to exploitation from both, the group members and by others.
�The destitute children are those who live completely on their own-without any form of parental or adult support, deriving their necessities like food from begging, rack picking, waste as well as thrown food, and make their shelter on the street, under flyovers and on the platform. Although the number of these children here may seem apparently small in number in comparison to other metros, still the vulnerability to abuse, harassment and exploitation is the same or even more acute than in the other cities,� said Baruah.
The shelter home will ensure protection, education, vocational training and other life skill improvement activities so that the inmates can return to the society and live life with their heads held high. The home will particularly give importance to taking in girls who are more vulnerable to trafficking and other sexual exploitations.
�One of objectives is to ensure that the Right to Education Act is implemented in the true spirit. By providing education to our inmates we want to make them self-reliant and confident,� said Baruah, adding that the state of education among the destitute children was very pathetic.
In yet another survey by the Society amongst the destitute girls in the city, it was found that 82.8 per cent of them had never enrolled in any form of schooling, 16.8 per cent were dropouts at the primary level, 0.4 per cent completed primary education but dropped out at middle level.
�We hope to create a protective environment through this home and all philanthropic individuals interested to be a part of our initiative to give back the children their due rights are most welcome,� said Baruah.