“Hayan had always been a difficult child, generally irritable and uncooperative. I was worried that as he grew older, he might turn ill-tempered and aggressive. However, upon joining the Child Friendly Space (CFS), he started changing and has become a much better person,”
says the 8-year old Hayan’s mother, with a sense of relief noticeable in her tone. In fact, over the last few months, Hayan hasn’t missed any session at the centre; he is the head boy of CFS, Palipora in Srinagar. “Active participation in the various CFS activities has improved Hayan’s concentration levels and has made him calmer, which is a very positive behavioural change,” the local community mobiliser testifies.
Since 2017, Jammu and Kashmir Association of Social Workers and Humanity Welfare Organization Helpline (HWOHL) have been running CFSs in Jammu & Kashmir in collaboration with ActionAid India. Currently, we run 68 CFSs* in villages across Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, Anantnag and Shopian districts. This UNICEF-supported project aims at ensuring community-based protection of children, and promoting their participation in their family and community settings. Children in these communities have lost their childhood and safe spaces of socialisation owing to the current situation in the state. The CFSs are run for 3 days in a week in the community-based spaces and one day in the local school. The CFS provides a safe community-based environment to children where they participate in a variety of activities including sports, craft, drawing and painting. The CFS provides an opportunity for peer socialization and peer sharing, and these safe spaces are also used as a platform to address the deeper issues of child protection including psycho-social issues, school drop-outs and adolescent health. More than 10,000 children* are currently enrolled in the Child Friendly Spaces, with nearly 50% participation of girls.
“Happy to visit #ChildFriendlySpaces in Aglar where children of all ages and abilities are having fun as they learn important life skills, while their mothers are assured of their safety! Thanks @ActionAidIndia Kashmir Team! @UNICEFIndia,” wrote Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Representative in India, in a recent tweet.
*Data as of April 30, 2018