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Receiving 150 'taabars' per month, this NGO 'cares, protects, rehabilitates' child labour

Ramesh Paliwal with rescued children
By Gazala Paul* 
It was in 2007. Two years after he started working with street children in Jaipur, child rights activist Ramesh Paliwal founded Training Awareness and Behaviour Change About Health and Rehabilitation ((TAABAR) Society. Taabar means child in Marwari language. Till then it was more of a voluntary work in a non-formal environment. But as the intensity of work increased, he realised the enormity of the task, and a need for an institutional mechanism.
Most of the children that landed in public places like platforms and bus stands were from nearby slums. As such Taabar was born with a transit shelter home along with a small awareness programme on HIV/AIDS, and treatment on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) for the street children in and around Jaipur Railway Station.
Taabar identified the vulnerable hotspots in Jaipur city. Majority of the street children belonged to these hotspots-Khor, Kagdiwada, Luniyawas, Jhalana, Banjara Basti, Sapera Basti, and Bagariya Basti. At these strategic locations, Taabar started “Bal Basera” the day care centre and shelter homes under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 (JJ Act).
Bal Basera is a reception centre for street children, railway children, child labourers-a shelter home for children in need of care and protection. Till date, it has admitted around 3,000 children, and 80% of these are repatriated/restored or transferred to their respective state governments for further processes and rehabilitation.
From 2007 to 2013, Taabar ran Bal Basera and provided care and protection to the street children. As it completed five years working with street children, Taabar team started brainstorming over "service delivery" to "prevention” aspects of the child rights situation. “Should we broaden our approach,” Mr Ramesh Paliwal constantly thought.
The Taabar team eventually decided to be inclusive -- prevention measures along with providing care and protection. From 2015, Taabar initiated long-term care, protection, and development programme through Children’s Homes for the vulnerable children-children whose parents are not able to take care of their children, orphan children, children of prisoners, children affected by HIV/AIDS etc.
Rescued children on being sent back to Patna
Six years from its inception, Taabar worked hard to develop and enhance its capacities. It also felt that there was a need to work in training, research, and advocacy to strengthen the child protection mechanism in Rajasthan. Quality training to stakeholders, including the key functionaries, was an urgent need. So also documentation and research area needed attention to strengthen the child protection mechanism.
"Could we do it? Should we do it? Why not?", were the questions that started haunting the Taabar team, and at the same time, it realized that it had gained enough understanding and skills to take the mantle. It looked for a partner in the new realm of endeavour, and Paul Hamlyn Foundation (PHF), UK based Charity, supported the idea.
Taabar was working on child care and protection when the JJ Act was relatively new. Though the JJ Act outlined the standards, there was no child protection mechanism in the state. Taabar followed the guidelines and standards outlined in the JJ Act and doing so it created a buzz about its effective practices. The Rajasthan state government took cognizance, and felicitated the organisation at district and state level.
Taabar was working with government machinery, and it was well known in that circle as a service provider. PHF provided the support and opportunity to work as a resource agency, but it was a tough job for an image make-over-from an effective service provider to an equally effective resource agency.
The metamorphosis into a resource agency started with a study, “Need of interdepartmental collaboration to strengthen child protection mechanism”.
This study, in partnership with the Department of Child Rights, Rajasthan, gave Taabar team insights into the inter-departmental dynamics. During the study and afterwards, it continuously voiced the need for inter-departmental collaboration. Soon inter-departmental collaboration became the talk of the town.
Training Needs Assessment (TNA) helped to understand the needs of various stakeholders. Based on the study the grey areas were identified. Taabar conducted training for Childcare Institutions, Labour Department, Child Welfare Committee, and Juvenile Justice Board.
One of Taabar's craft activities
The training was different; all stakeholders were encouraged to give feedback and inputs to improve the quality, content, and methodology. As a result, the training became participatory, and it helped.
Running a transit home and restoration of the children in their respective states and cities is what Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act) underlines. Still, not all child care institutions adhere to the standard guidelines while running the programme. 
However, Taabar's training and meticulous details about documentation and research were the accepted norms across government functionaries. The different government departments from Rajasthan used Taabar's Training Need Assessment (TNA) and the study on inter-departmental collaboration to bring a qualitative change to its working.
While this programme was going on – the TNA, research and documentation, advocacy and training, it helped shape the internal systems of Taabar. It developed its strategic aspirations (vision and mission), and identified areas of strength and weaknesses. As a result, its transit shelter home became a model for adhering to standard JJ Act guidelines. The Government of Rajasthan duly recognised this, and it felicitated Taabar several times at the district level and at the state level for its exemplary work.
Taabar became a resource agency for training and documentation, as its shelter home was looked upon as a model home. Taabar as an Institution changed profoundly during the 2014 to 2020 period. Financial processes developed, and systems were put in place as advised by the auditors. In addition, Paul Hamlyn Foundation helped Taabar develop policies and practices to strengthen the compliances, internal functions, management practices and governing system. The programme also focused on developing the team-its capabilities through training and exposures, setting up periodic processes to augment that.
These helped strengthen the organisation as a resource agency, as an implementing agency running a children's home, and building new partnerships for support. New donors like Children Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative (APPI) came on board as a result of the processes and systems that were put in place.
Musical evening with children at shelter home
Taabar receives around 150 working children (child labour) monthly, and provide them ‘care and protection’ till their rehabilitation. These children are emotionally distressed as they have faced extreme torture, violence, and brutality.
Children, who are rescued from the streets and labour, show recurring dysfunctional problems in their skills such as communication, cognitive and social skills. Arts based therapy helps them to open up and stabilize, provides opportunities, spaces and encouragement to express themselves and retrieve their lost childhood.
Covid-19 and child rights crisis: Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Taabar has struggled to meet unprecedented demands and, in many cases, have responded creatively and adapted services to address critical child protection needs.
Covid-19 brought several challenges for Taabar. Particularly, making the institutional systems and infrastructure COVID inclusive came up as a sudden need. Creating safe spaces for children living in shelter homes, managing social distance and developing round the clock health care facility was a difficult task.
Due to strict lock-down, children rescued were stuck in the city and gradually handed over to different child care institutions for care and protection. Taabar also received several such children. At one point in time when Covid infection was in its peak, Taabar was struggling with everyday increasing number of children at home. The institutional staff and caretakers at Taabar shelter home and children’s home played a crucial role in providing psychological support to children to overcome the harrowing situation.
Medical check-up of child workers on being rescued
The pandemic has posed a child rights crisis in the country that needs immediate attention and action. Millions of children in the country already living with hardships will fall into adversity and poverty if the Covid-19 impact on them remains unaddressed.

Way forward

Taabar emphasises collaboration and coordination of various departments as a critical element of child protection systems that are multi-level and multi-dimensional, and multi-sectorial.
There is a foremost need for collaborative actions by the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), child rights activists and other development agencies to identify and map the vulnerable children in the community and provide the necessary services. Taabar has established itself as a resource agency with solid groundwork. It has cultivated new and innovative ideas for the child as well as stakeholder participation.
It is committed to safeguard the children's rights, work in the best interest of the children, and create an enabling environment for the development of the children. Taabar has a dynamic team that are working towards scaling up the best practices in the child care institutions across Rajasthan. The vision is to create a new era in the child protection field in Rajasthan.

Best Practices evolved at Taabar

Psycho-social and counselling support: helps in finding the real names and addresses of the children and statement of child labourers under section 164 under code of Criminal procedure, which allows single time recording of the statement with Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
Various levels of child participation: Taabar conducts regular meetings on the children’s suggestions received through ‘Suggestion Box’. It ensures that the feedback is not overlooked and children are included in the review process. Children are not mere recipients but are involved in the execution of the services and running of the institution.
Applying Arts Based Therapy (ABT): ABT is evidence based intervention that uses various art forms to improve a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Dr Shahina Parveen, Vice President of Taabar, became a certified trainer to integrate ABT in child care institutions in Rajasthan.  Theatre actively engages the children for self-expression and awareness creation.
Child development plans: the plans are incremental and cover the curricula as wells as the other forms of development in the field of art, craft, theatre etc.
End-to-end case handling: ensures the best services are provided to the children during their stay in the homes and rehabilitated with the family. This includes the opening of bank account, getting an Aadhar card, and accessing Rajasthan legal services authority for financial compensation for victims of child labour etc.
Meaningful relationship with relevant stakeholders: nurtured a long-lasting relationship with Jaipur Municipal Corporation, Railway Police Force, Rajasthan State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, and CWC. It ensures the cooperation and service is in the best interest of the children. 
to quote Hukum Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police at Department for Child Rights, “Taabar is working on the child protection issue in Rajasthan with a collaborative approach. Taabar team and leadership have significantly contributed to Interdepartmental Coordination between agencies, organisations, and other stakeholders about a systems approach to child protection.” 
Documents, records, and reports: Documents, records and reports are maintained meticulously as per the norms of JJ Act. The appropriate authorities regularly attest all the registers within the institution.
Innovations: Examples include "Dream Box" installed in both the homes for children to drop their wishes and dreams into the box by writing or in art form. It helps the child, whatever the duration of the stay, to visualize and express her/his interests.
---
*Managing trustee, Samerth, works as consultant to Paul Hamlyn Foundation, western India programme. Inputs: Ramesh Paliwal, founder, Taabar

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