The Milaan Foundation
According to the World Bank, the latest official estimates from 2011 indicated that almost 22% of India’s population lived below the national poverty line. The demographic most vulnerable to poverty is the 120 million adolescent girls in India who are more likely to discontinue their education at a young age and face child marriages. The Milaan Foundation in India recognizes these hardships and helps young girls secure their futures in education and outside of child marriages.

Issues Young Indian Girls Face

Women suffer discrimination and gender-based violence at notable rates in India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau of India, “every hour, at least two women are sexually assaulted and every six hours, a young married woman is beaten to death, burnt or driven to suicide.”

The results of this discrimination have led to deteriorating mental health, high poverty rates and isolation. These gender-based issues start at a young age and are costly for a young girl’s education. According to UNICEF, about 43% of Indian girls have discontinued their secondary education early due to an array of reasons, with child marriage having a significant influence.

India has a significant number of child brides, with about 1.5 million Indian girls committing to marry before the age of 18. Of these girls, 7% are under the age of 15. These child brides lack the maturity and development to handle marital duties, yet their parents see no alternatives, often because marrying off daughters eases the economic burden on the family.

While child marriages appear to be the route toward security and stability, many girls end up enduring early pregnancies. Nearly 14% of adolescent Indian girls in both rural and urban areas have begun childbearing. These pregnant girls’ lives and health are at risk because young mothers are more susceptible to maternal mortality and complications during childbirth.

The Milaan Foundation in India

The Milaan Foundation in India originated in 2007 to aid impoverished girls between the ages of 12-18 regardless of religion, color or caste system. The organization prides itself on having a diverse team with 60% of its board members and 90% of its team members being women from all walks of life.

Partnering with more than 40 organizations and donors, the organization focuses on four goals: continuation of secondary education for girls, prevention of child marriages, prevention of gender-based violence and adolescent health. Overall, the Foundation has impacted more than 40,000 adolescents in four different Indian states.

The Milaan Foundation and Education

The Milaan Foundation consistently encourages girls to continue their secondary education through its Swarachna School. The school is purposely placed in the Sitapur district as 84% of the district’s population lives in poverty. The school currently educates 350 children, all with a passing rate of 100% in 12th-grade board examination classes. The 12th-grade board examinations, also known as the SSC, are crucial for students in India looking to reach higher education and apply to universities.

The Milaan Foundation’s Girl Icon Program

The largest program funded by the Milaan Foundation is its Girl Icon Program. Founded in 2015, the Girl Icon Program is a girl-led leadership program that encourages Indian girls to speak out, spread awareness of gender-based issues, diversify their skillsets and become independent. Indian girls who pass through the program are called Girl Icons with duties to inspire and evoke change.

For example, Kushboo Rasheed, a 2015 Girl Icon, went out into her neighborhood and coaxed parents who doubted the value of education to send their children to school. In the end, she recruited 20 kids to attend school and also tutored these children in her spare time to ensure that they did not fall behind. Rasheed shows the program’s domino effect: Girl Icons learn, they thrive, then, they recruit more Girl Icons who do the same.

So far, the program has implemented 953 social action projects and impacted more than 10,000 adolescent girls, 375 of whom have become Girl Icons. In 2021, all of the Girl Icons continued their secondary education and 80% looked to pursue higher education. As a result, 95% of girls delayed early marriage due to educational ambitions.

The Milaan Foundation and the Pandemic

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, 10 million Indian girls dropped out of secondary school. Despite the pandemic, The Milaan Foundation in India continued its Girl Icon Program, moving its classroom online from January 2021 to March 2021. The Girl Icon Program Virtual Leadership Training proved to be a great success as it reached 5,000 adolescent girls and awarded 201 education scholarships to its girl leaders to support their upcoming projects.

Outside of the Girl Icon Program, the Milaan Foundation has also provided medical resources across India. As the second deadly wave of the pandemic hit India in January 2021, the Milaan Foundation delivered more than 26,000 medicine kits and 39,000 medical consumables to those in need.

Future Visions

By 2030, the Milaan Foundation hopes to impact more than 10 million Indian girls and raise a new generation of girl leaders who leave the world better than they found it. The Foundation also plans on continuing to recruit more children for its Swarachna School and aims to host another Girl Icon Leadership Summit in late 2022.

– Blanly Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Ayushmann Khurrana Fights Child Abuse in IndiaViolence and abuse are harsh realities for millions of children in India. More than 40% of the country’s 440 million youth are unprotected and facing traumatic and dangerous situations. According to the Government of India, the frequency of all types of child abuse — physical, emotional and sexual — is exceptionally high. In 2018, the National Crime Records Bureau reported that 109 children face sexual abuse every day. The popular Indian actor Ayushmann Khurrana is working with UNICEF to fight against child abuse in India. 

Contributing Factors

Child abuse in India is often found among the poorer sectors of society, with domestic violence, drug addiction and illiteracy compounding the situation’s complexity. Injury, negligent care, incestuous exploitation and sexual abuse are all examples of child abuse. It can occur in various settings, including the home, schools, orphanages, the streets, the workplace or detention centers. 

More than 150 million girls and 73 million boys below 18 have been coerced into sexual activities, according to a 2007 report by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD). The abuse was most prevalent in the homes of children aged 5 to 12, where parents typically perpetrated it. Studies show prolonged exposure to child abuse increases the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), aggressiveness and emotional and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

India’s Efforts to Combat Abuse

The Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) was enacted in 2012 due to a movement spearheaded by the MWCD to combat the threat of child sexual abuse in India. The act made many forms of child sexual abuse punishable by law. It also introduced provisions for the proper passage of justice. For example, authorities must record evidence within 30 days and conduct an investigation within three months. After that, a special court works on the case, usually reaching a judgment in less than two months.

Since the passage of the POCSO Act, the number of child abuse cases brought to trial has risen. This is largely attributed to an increased social awareness of the issue and because several actions are now considered offenses. However, a 2018 report from the National Crime Records Bureau found that abuse is still prevalent, where five cases of child sexual abuse were documented every hour in India.

Ayushmann Khurrana’s Passion to End Child Abuse

Ayushmann Khurrana is a multi-talented Indian actor revered as a generational icon. His work in films such as “Article 15” and “Andhadhun” inspired positive social dialogues. Khurrana is also a father to two children. Khurrana’s children have access to privileges that many Indian children can only hope to enjoy. This insight persuaded Khurrana to become an active voice against child abuse. The actor’s support for the fight against child abuse also derives from his belief that it is both immoral and stoppable.

Ayushmann Khurrana Speaks Out

Nearly one-third of India’s population lives below the poverty line. The poverty rate contributes to the increase in child labor because impoverished families are more likely to send children to work instead of school. And, in certain circumstances, desperate parents will sell children to child traffickers for supplemental income. Ayushmann Khurrana has been outspoken against child labor and encourages others to support a social protection plan for low-income families.

To help reduce child sexual abuse, Ayushmann Khurrana produced a video in endorsement of the POSCO Act. Khurrana’s video encourages people to recognize situations of child sexual abuse and report them to the appropriate authorities.

Ayushmann Khurrana has also been named the celebrity advocate for UNICEF India’s Ending Violence Against Children (EVAC) campaign. There are three main focuses of the EVAC campaign. The first focus of the campaign is to create an atmosphere that enables a multi-sectoral response. Next, the campaign will focus on the structural development of India’s law enforcement, government aid and health systems. Finally, the campaign strives to empower Indian adolescents through social and behavioral changes. UNICEF India anticipates that Khurrana’s involvement will offer empathy, enthusiasm and a prominent voice for every child in the eradication of violence against children.

Ending Child Abuse in India

With the increase in reported cases, India must now strive to reduce the frequency of child abuse. UNICEF India is aiding this with the establishment of child protection programs such as the End Violence Against Children campaign. Ayushmann Khurrana said, “With UNICEF, I look forward to supporting rights of the most vulnerable children, so that they grow up as happier, healthier, educated citizens in nurturing environments free from violence.”

– Tiara Tyson
Photo: Flickr

Lynching in India
Lynching means to illegally kill a person suspected of an offense without a trial, often by a public mob. In the past few years, incidents of mob lynching rose in India. Religious polarization and fake social media news are the two main drivers of increased lynching in India. This article explores nine facts about lynching in India and provides measures to prevent it.

9 Facts About Lynching in India

  1. Data on Lynching in India: The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) collects and publishes data on the crime incidents happening in India within a year. The NCRB does not collect or publish any data on lynching incidents although there is a distinct category in the report for the same. The NCRB reports these incidents as murder. Media sources claim that incidents of lynching are on a sharp rise under the current right-wing government of India. Journalists reported 20 incidents between May and June 2018 alone.
  2. Causes of Lynching in India: Most of the lynching in India occurred in response to the Indian government’s cow protection and beef ban. The cow is a sacred animal for Hindus who venerate it. The Muslim population carries the beef trade in India and is generally the victim of this mob fury. Although beef comes from buffalo and not cows in India, the mobs attack and beat the drivers carrying dead animals (to death in many cases) or others involved in the trade. The recent mob lynching in India is an example of religious intolerance. The spread of fake news through social media about child abduction is another important cause of mob violence against any suspicious people.
  3. Lynching and Economy: An important fact about lynching in India is its effect on the economy of the country. The greatest number of attacks have been on drivers carrying dead animals, traders of beef and owners of slaughterhouses; as a result, they will tend to abandon these jobs due to fear of suffering lynching. This is sure to affect the trade and economy, especially since India is one of the largest exporters of beef in the world. The lynching will also lead to job loss and increase the rate of unemployment in India where unemployment is already at its highest.
  4. Lynching and Health: Lynching incidents are an issue of public health. In the short-term, lynching leads to death and injury for the victims whereas in the long-term it can lead to psychological and physiological effects on present and future generations. Studies show that higher rates of lynching in an area lead to increased rates of mortality for those communities.
  5. Enactment and Enforcement of Strict Anti-lynching Laws: In India, there are currently no laws dictating punishment for lynching. Therefore, the first and foremost step is for the government to introduce and pass an anti-lynching law and strictly enforce it. Given the distinct nature of the crime, it is important to make separate laws for this and not merge these incidents with other kinds of murder. The United States passed its first anti-lynching law in 2018 and India should follow the lead.
  6. Collection and Maintenance of Data Independent of the Government: To put control over such incidents, NCRB should make lynching a distinct category and record the number of incidents. This will give visibility to the lynching episodes and create an urgency to act. When there is no separate category for lynching, people see these incidents as unimportant and rare.
  7. Improve Economic Conditions and Employment Rates: Research says that there is a link between hate crimes such as mob lynching and economy. Socioeconomic status and education determine participation in such criminal acts. People living in poverty and with low educational status are more prone to both participating in lynching and becoming a victim of such incidents. Therefore, creating more jobs for the unemployed young of the country, skill development and improving their financial circumstances will divert their attention away from such heinous acts and protect them from being a victim or a perpetrator of it.
  8. Campaigns and Awareness: The success of Ida B. Wells (who started the anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s) and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) movement against lynching of African-Americans in 1909 are examples to learn from and the people of India can start similar awareness campaigns against current increase in lynching incidents. Such campaigns can end religious polarization and create cultural sensitization towards mob violence.
  9. Control the Spread of Fake News Through Social Media: Apart from the cow protection groups, the second most important cause of lynching in India is the spread of fake news over social media regarding child abduction. People in rural areas and with low education easily believe the news they read on social media platforms and act in anger and frustration. Therefore, the Indian government needs to restrain the spread of such fake news by collaborating with social media companies and run awareness campaigns about the pros and cons of social media.
The Supreme Court of India has given orders to the Government of India to enact laws specifically to control lynching in India. The court has framed a three-level strategy that involves prevention, remedy and accountability on the behalf of the officials to control lynching in India. Three states, Mizoram, Rajasthan and West Bengal have introduced anti-lynching bills so far. With the people and government paying attention to mob violence, there is hope that the government of India will soon pass appropriate laws to curb lynching in India and her people will feel safer again.

– Navjot Buttar
Photo: Wikipedia