The child-friendly station model has been incubated with the view to prevent and respond to the multi-faceted violations, abuse and exploitation children can potentially face when they arrive at railway stations.
Published on February 8, 2021 at 6:09 pm
Updated on March 5, 2021 at 07:08 am
Railway Children India is a child rights organisation that works to prevent children from slipping into a life on the street, by establishing efficient child protection services in and around at railway stations and working with families, communities and local administration to create child-friendly spaces. This ensures children are either restored with their families or long-term care homes, enrolled into school and have access to basic services, in addition to providing immediate care to children who arrive at railway stations.
Child-friendly stations for children connected with the railways
Railway Children India’s station-level work, work at children’s home and community interventions contribute to achieving the following Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing; SDG 4 – Quality Education; SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; and SDG 11- Sustainable Communities and Cities. The non-profit’s family strengthening initiative contributes towards achieving SDG 1: No Poverty and SDG-8- Decent Work and Economic Growth, whereas its capacity building work with railway officials contributes towards achieving the SDG -17 which is partnerships to achieve the goal.
The organisation’s child-friendly stations programme is to create safe spaces for vulnerable and at-risk children who traverse through the railway network or have easy access to it and prevent them from falling through the cracks and taking to a life on the streets.
Implementation & Challenges
Railway Children India’s programme implementation is guided by consistent quality and child-centric approach. A comprehensive quality parameter ensures that all engagements with children are standardised, systematised, evidence based and focussed on safety-wellbeing-permanence.
A daunting challenge over the last 10 months has been closely linked to the suspension and slowing down of railway services and the nation-wide lockdown, followed by the reinstatement of the train services. This meant that thousands of children who arrived alone at railway stations, now had no access to our protection services, children rescued and living at shelter homes had to wait longer to get back home and children and families who the non-profit had worked with in the past were located remotely and difficult for the organisation’s teams to reach and access in order to provide relief material. This meant that Railway Children India had to redesign its programme strategy, and leverage different networks, local leaders and stakeholders to ensure it was able to reach vulnerable children and their families.
Railway Children India works at 10 railway stations across 7 states in India with the aim to secure a
long-term and safe future for every child coming in contact with the railways, to sustainably reintegrate them with their families and society at large by enrolling them into schools and supporting them by linking them with vocational education.
Since 2015, Railway Children India has protected 16,791 children, out of which 14,619 children have been reunited with their families and 342 children have been rehabilitated in long care homes. 302 children have been linked with vocational training courses, 3,858 children have been linked with schools and 15,583 receive psychosocial support and counselling services.
Working in a collaborative spirit is the foundation on which Railway Children India works and intervenes at three levels for lasting and long-term change.
- At and around the railway station: Railway Children India aims to transform stations into
child-friendly spaces. At this level, it works in close contact with station level railway officials, Railway Protection Force (RPF), Government Railway Police (GRP), vendors, porters and clearing staff to equip them with knowledge and understanding on how to identify and protect children arriving alone and at risk, and which services to access within and around railway stations.
- In communities: With the aim to create a safety net within the community, so that children don’t fall through it, Railway Children India works to empower families and communities so that they have the know-how, resources, and ability to keep their children safe.
- With governments: Strengthening the existing government system and structures is key to ensuring long-term, sustainable change, which is what Railway Children India work towards, and what allows it to have the greatest impact, where needed most. At the national level, the non-profit collaborates with the Ministry of Railway/Railway Board, Ministry of Women & Child Development (MWCD) and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). At the state level, it collaborates with the Department of Social Welfare, Department of Women and Child Development, State ICPS, State Child Protection Society/Unit and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR), and at the district level, the organisation collaborates with District Child Protection Unit (DCPU) and Child Protection Committees (CPCs) at district, block, village and ward level for strengthening child protection mechanisms.
Railway Children India’s project performance is monitored on a day-to-day basis and reviewed on a quarterly basis using a robust project monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system. M&E is both internal (to be done by those involved in project implementation), and external (to be done by a contracted independent firm and/or individual not involved in project implementation).
Replicability & Scalability
Railway Children India works towards building the capacities of station-level stakeholders and creating a child-friendly community by building a culture of empathy towards children and increased action towards their protection. An active, aware and growing cadre of trained child protection ambassadors at railway stations has ensured the scalability of child-friendly railway stations. The non-profit’s work and partnership with the Indian Railways has ensured the adoption of Standard Operating Procedures and a Guidebook for child protection across many stations in India. Railway Children India’s future plans include collaborating with CHILDLINE India Foundation to bring many other railway stations in the list of Railway’s SoP under the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the continuation of its station work.
The non-profit’s expansion of work into communities, working to strengthen families, shall mobilize networks that are delivering services for children and link them directly with child protection mechanisms in their districts and states. Community participation and ownership of this programme would ensure its longevity over the next few years too.
This programme will make sure that Child Protection Committees (CPCs) are formed and functional as per the mandate of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS). Capacity building and training of Child Protection functionaries, and key stakeholders at the district, block, and ward levels will be undertaken too. In collaboration with the District Child Protection Units, the programme would influence the Urban Local Bodies to sustain the child protection mechanisms created within the slum communities.
In essence, all the programme components are geared towards ensuring replicability and scalability over time.
“I live at a nearby jhuggi with my mother and two brothers. I came here with my friends so that I could visit the railway station and look at trains, but my friends left me here alone! I’m not able to go home because I have forgotten my way back,” Chotu (name changed) replied to a team member of Railway Children India who found him loitering on platform no.3 at Delhi Sarai Rohilla Railway Station one afternoon. Chotu looked scared and worried.
Coming from Daya Basti slum in Delhi, Chotu was reunified with his family with the help of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and the Child Assistance Booth (CAB) at the station. Chotu’s parents were also taken through a counselling session, and multiple follow-ups were carried out to ensure his safety at home. Fortunately, Chotu’s parents acted in sync with advice from Railway Children India’s team members, and Chotu started going back to school.
With the announcement of lockdown came new complications in Chotu and his family’s life.“Bhaiya! We are now in trouble. My mother has lost her job and is unable to purchase daily groceries. Please help us!” was Chotu’s sincere plea to save his family from hunger and starvation.
Help in the form of dry groceries were provided to Chotu and his family on a regular basis, that welled them up with immense gratitude. Chotu’s mother found a job that gave her a basic income to start supporting her family and ensuring her children were going back to school. Chotu was elated that despite lockdown he could still attend his online classes, and continue to learn.
“Sustainability is an important foundation of Railway Children India’s theory of change. Our work focusses on three levels to ensure sustainability is intertwined into our programme. First, develop and implement replicable child rights programme models on the ground to protect and restore children who are immediately at risk. Secondly, generate awareness amongst government stakeholders and the general public so that child protection becomes everyone’s business and hence in long terms every single child stays safe and grows to full potential. Thirdly, build the capacities of government stakeholder so that they can deliver their child protection responsibilities adequately.”
Navin S Sellaraju, Chief Executive Officer, Railway Children India