“Before joining the Child Friendly Space (CFS), Nouman could hardly speak. I am amazed to see him improving now and trying to speak with us,” says the mother of this 8-year-old. Nouman, who comes from a remote village in Pulwama district of Jammu & Kashmir, has a partial hearing and speech disability. Given his disability, he had even stopped going to school.
“I always found Nouman to be aloof and quiet. I wanted to bring him to the CFS and help him overcome all barriers,” adds Morifat, the local community mobilizer. Morifat convinced his parents to send Nouman to the CFS. Starting with simple games and confidence-building exercises, Nouman gradually began participating in all activities being conducted at the centre. He soon developed an amazing bonding with his peers and is now attending the CFS sessions regularly. Besides, the field team is in touch with his parents to get him the needed referral support to a speech therapist, in addition to getting him into a formal special school and also sponsorship from the state government’s Social Welfare Department.
Since 2017, Jammu and Kashmir Association of Social Workers (JKASW), Humanity Welfare Organization (HWO) and ActionAid India’s Jammu & Kashmir Field Office have been running CFSs in Jammu & Kashmir; currently, we run 100 CFSs in villages across Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama and Anantnag districts. This UNICEF-supported project aims at ensuring community-based protection of children and promoting children’s participation in their family and community settings. More than 17,000 children are currently enrolled in the CFSs, with nearly 50% participation of girls. These CFSs provide a safe environment to children where they participate in a variety of activities including sports, craft, drawing, painting, debates and other capacity development programmes.
In addition, these safe spaces act as a platform to identify community children in need of special care and protection, and provide them the required support and referral services. Across all CFSs, ActionAid India has, so far, identified 489 such children; while referral support has already been provided to 265 of them, the remaining cases are in progress.
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