The recent alleged rape of a three-year-old child in Sumbal area of Bandipora district riled Dr Khawar Khan Achakzai so much that he set out do something to raise awareness about child sexual abuse in Kashmir.
A social activist and a doctor working in a government hospital here, Dr Achakzai formed Aagosh, the first non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Kashmir to campaign against child sexual abuse in the valley.
Aagosh started off its campaign from a local private school in Khanyar area of downtown Srinagar by conducting a workshop, training parents and teachers for prevention and detection of child sexual abuse cases.
The workshop was a result of Dr Achakzai calling his friends and rights activists, psychologists and media persons, asking them to suggest ways to stop child sexual abuse.
“I have lots of people with me who are actively working on child rights issues in their respective fields, so I thought to bring them together and come up with ideas about how to tackle this problem of lack of education and awareness about child sexual abuse in Kashmir,” Dr Achakzai said.
The idea of forming the group was to give preliminary training to caregivers – parents and teachers – on prevention of child abuse and introduce them to proper ways of educating children about possibility of abuse besides spreading awareness about child protection laws.
“Personally, I feel that there are lot of civil society and social groups who are talking about so many things, but no one talks about child sexual abuse. So to talk about this issue I started Aagosh,” Dr Achakzai said.
“They somehow feel that this is not a relevant topic to discuss.”
To begin with, the first workshop was conducted recently at the Blue Bells School in Khanyar where teacher trainers, psychologists, journalists and social workers spoke extensively on child abuse.
“It was the first school-based workshop which was conducted in Kashmir. We mainly targeted caregivers – teachers and parents. They are actually the people who deal with the children, who teach or interact with them at home or other places,” Dr Achakzai said.
“In the workshop tips and a preliminary training were given to the teachers. A lecture was delivered by a psychologist on the changes in a child who has undergone sexual abuse, how does the behaviour of the child change and how to approach a child who has been a victim of abuse.”
The workshop, Dr Achakzai said, also stressed on the importance of talking about child sexual abuse, and how to report such cases.
“At the end of the workshop we distributed some handbooks about child sexual abuse and some frequently asked questions regarding the issue.”
Aagosh is planning to conduct more such workshops with caregivers to impart basic sex education.
“Apart from our online as well as on ground campaign, every month we are planning to target schools. Next month we are hoping to conduct a workshop in a school in Pulwama,” Dr Achakzai said.