Welcome to Praajak

[1997 to 2003]

We started our work in 1999 in two Government run Child Care Institutions (CCIs) for boys in North 24 Parganas near Kolkata (West Bengal). Psychosocial interventions and arts based activities (theatre, drawing and movement) were used to help the boys explore notions of self and agency. Popular Indian festivals and the symbolism associated with them were utilised as platforms for creative expression as well as continuing the dialogue on critical issues such as growing up (adolescence), gender, violence and sexuality.

Between 2005-06, the work with the CCIs grew to include restoration and social reintegration efforts. Drawing from our experiences in art therapy, we developed a tool called the Self Book to help us have a conversation with the children; develop individual care plans and reunification strategies with their active participation.
In 2000, we started our first outreach activities with children in contact with railways at the Bandel railway station. This helped us understand the push and pull factors that brought children to railway stations.
While working in Bandel, we read about Railway Protection Force’s(RPF) initiative of starting a school for children at Malda. . In order to support such an initiative, we collaborated with RPF and developed Muktangan, an open drop in centre for children staying in the platform in 2003.

[2004-2007]

We began work with a group of young transgender boys in Kulpi in West Bengal. The boys were female impersonators in a local folk theatre form called “Gajan”. Many of them also earned a living through dancing in marriage parties and other celebrations in the neighbouring states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This engagement revealed the range of discrimination and exploitation that transgender boys faced in their homes, schools and communities. Inputs on life skills, and education were provided along with awareness about gender and sexuality. Theatre was utilised as a medium to highlight sensitive issues of gender stereotypes and bullying and encourage family, school and community level conversations. The experiences also reinforced the importance of working on gender and sexuality with boys.

By 2005, Muktangan had expanded to the railway stations of Asansol, Kharagpur and New Cooch Behar in West Bengal.
By 2007our engagement with the various mechanisms within the Juvenile Justice and Child Protection system began to grow stronger in most districts of West Bengal.

[2008-2013]

Our interventions in government-run CCIs grew to include support in preparing individual care plans for children and capacity building of staff in 11 CCIs in 7 districts of West Bengal.

Muktangan was started at New Jalpaiguri railway station in 2009.Muktangan received a special mention in a judgment passed by the Delhi High Court on February 13, 2013 in the case of Ms. Khusboo Jain Vs Ministry of Railways, Government of India (W.P. (C) 5365/2012) High Court referred to Muktangan as a collaborative child protection programme at railway stations that could be considered as a model.

Ms. Jain had moved the Court to push for protection of children who arrived and stayed at railway stations. Praajak had supported the petition. Subsequently the Central Railway Board issued a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be implemented all over India for protecting the children who are in contact with the Railways.

[2014- 2016]

We observed a change in the trend of children coming to the railway stations. An overwhelming majority (almost 95%) of new children coming to the stations came from neighbouring communities and well-connected villages and towns, from nomadic tribes and were all connected with their families. This was in sharp contrast to the earlier decade where children came from far off locations and, typically, lived in singly with little or no connection with their families. We decided to work with nomadic communities and the neighbouring areas from where these children came. In the context of institution of Railway CHILDLINE had been initiated at the railway stations. The growing emphasis on community level preventive work meant that Praajak would contribute to strengthening the local safety net for children and utilise its resources in a more judicious manner.

In 2016, Praajak was entrusted with the task of running the Railway CHILDLINE at Malda station.
We also gained official recognition as a resource and training organisation for Child Protection by the Directorate of Child Rights and Trafficking, Government of West Bengal.

We also supported the West Bengal Police, the Government Railway Police and the Commissionerates of Kolkata, Howrah, Asansol-Durgapur, Siliguri, Bidhan Nagar and Barrackpore in creating 45 child friendly police stations across West Bengal.

We worked closely with a range of actors including District Child Welfare Committees, District Child Protection Units and urban and rural local bodies to strengthen local Child Protection Committee mechanisms under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS).

We contributed in developing the Guidelines for Open Shelters for children and the Child Safety and Security Policy for government schools in Assam and West Bengal.

[2017 onwards]

Building on the learnings from the past two decades, we stepped up focus on the critical area of – (i) working with local communities (particularly migrants) to reduce children’s vulnerabilities and developing a local safety net for them and (ii) working with adolescents and youth on gender and sexuality to create catalysts of change. This element became the foundation of the Antariksha programme initiated in four districts in West Bengal.

Additionally, under the Muktangan Programme, we initiated work with migrant urban and semi-urban communities to reduce children’s vulnerabilities by developing a local safety net for them by collectivising youth and linking them to state child protection structures. We also stepped up focus on the intersections of child care and protection between mental health and education. Praajak intends to grow as a resource agency in this domain.

As a cross-cutting theme we plan to continue to strengthen the institutional response to risks and emergencies by actors in the Juvenile Justice and ICPS system particularly the Police, Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards and CCIs.

Looking back, we are glad that we started working with boys and young men. The emphasis is on supporting them to challenge age old social norms, respect women and make informed choices is particularly needed as we strive to create a gender discrimination free society.

International Partners