April 02, 2006

Mousetrap - 47

Pushing back the shadows
Askios
In the Blank Noise Project on street harassment (covered in this column three weeks ago), I found a staggering number of stories about child sexual abuse. Far from it being the rare occurrence I thought it was, huge percentages of children in this country have been abused. Much of it is either just not known or brushed under various carpets by those who could do something about it. And the victims often wind up not talking about it either, and carrying the scars all their lives. Askios is run by a survivor who found that many people s/he knew were also victims. “Not all of them have access to the professional help I had, and so this site is a way of sharing with them, and anyone else who is searching for information, empathy and hope.” The site seeks to help adult victims understand, and heal themselves, with a bunch of resources and projects that include a mailing list and a blog. Askios, by the way, is a Greek word meaning “shadowless.”

Other sites:
Stop it Now! The Campaign to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
Also see the dmoz Open Directory Project’s list of links to sites focussed on child abuse

dus-nau-aath
ChildLine India
To carry on with the same thought, kids, in this country and elsewhere, are our most vulnerable citizens. Those of us lucky enough to take safe homes, families and education for granted can barely begin to grasp what it means to grow up without them. ChildLine aims to give a lifeline to kids who have nowhere else to turn. Set up almost ten years ago in Bombay, its model is simple. The Department of telecommunications made a toll-free number – 1098 – available. Kids or concerned adults in (as per the site) 54 cities can call the number and 24/7 and be sure of getting at the very least, a trained, sympathetic ear at the other end. If they need more help, their volunteers go over and provide it. The site lists the organisation’s evolution and reach, and tells you how you can help. By the way, if you do want to help, and if you’re in Bombay, they’re hosting a fundraiser today at Shanmukhananda Hall, with Shankar, Loy and Ehsaan. Contact 55447776 or mail pooja@childlineindia.org.in or see the ‘What’s New’ page on the site.

And if you’re the type who delights in Indian accomplishments on a global level, here’s one genuinely worth crowing about: ChildLine’s model was extended to form Child Help International which links 81 such helplines in 70 countries.

Your right to know
Right to Information Act, 2005 & the RTI Portal
Not many people know we actually have a Right to Information. The first site is the Act itself, and the second “attempts to provide a RTI Portal Gateway to the citizens for Quick search of information, web published by various departments in Government.” Use it. It’s your right. And while you’re at it, see also http://chennairti.googlepages.com/, which is a citizen’s initiative in Chennai which seeks to help citizens make the most of the act. [Links via Bala Pitchandi]

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 2nd April, 2006.

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