In Congruence With a Child’s Safety and Care
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Child abuse and neglect as all forms of physical and emotional ill- treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, development or dignity. According to the International Labour Organisation, there are more than 152 million children working as child labourers. Out of which, around 10 million are found in India. Despite strict legislative rules and efforts, the engagement of children in various occupations hasn’t stopped. Any individual, below the age of 18 years is termed as a child.
In Nagaland, the highest number of child labour can be perceived as “Helpers” at home. The estimated core abuse cases that the Mokokchung CHILDLINE 1098 team has handled since 2018 are 30 (approximate). This being said, are we concerned about the “Wellbeing” of the child? Or are we in fact more concerned of the “Cases” being handled? How’s the child’s mental health being affected?
Parents and caregivers play significant role in the safety of the children’s mental health. So, here is the reality! Why do parents send their children as domestic helpers in the first place? Was it an easy decision for them? No, but they understand their circumstances. And Of course, their children are being sent to educate and become responsible citizens. However, the caregiver’s main objective is for domestic help, which the parents are also well aware of.
However, why do we abuse them? Or in what ways do they not meet our expectations? Caregivers must first understand the children’s early home environment and hence mould them accordingly. We must not anticipate them to meet our expectations or perception of disciplined or knowledgeable children right from the first day they enter our house. If they do not meet our anticipations even after repeated corrections, send them back before it’s too late. Otherwise, we can always consult the District Child Protection Unit (DCPU), Child Welfare Committee (CWC) or CHILDLINE 1098 team. Together with the consent of their parents, the best actions for the wellbeing of the child/children will be implemented. We must not take matters in our own hands because the society does not know the issues that occur inside our home environment. They will not listen to our justifications but focus on the external injuries that have already been inflicted. Besides, The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act 2016 prohibits complete employment of work of children below 14 years and also prohibits employment of adolescents between 14-18 years in hazardous occupations and processes. Hence, one must be aware!
Now, do not misinterpret by assuming that we can treat one’s own child/children in any way we want. A child is a child, if one is under the age of 18 years! We must be mindful of even how we talk with them. Child abuse ultimately affects all domains of the child’s development- physical (bruises, broken bones, cuts, etc), psychological (lack of attention, low self- esteem, depression, trust issues, etc), emotional ( feeling, lack of expressing and controlling emotions) and social, all of which are interrelated. A study has shown that children who have experienced child abuse or neglect are four times more likely to develop serious mental ill health such as psychosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. As a result, children are the leaders of tomorrow. The question is, can these children turn out to be reliable citizens? Can we anticipate for a healthier future under their leadership?