New child help desk will reach thousands of children at risk
- Date: 18/08/2017
- In: India
Railway Children has celebrated the opening of a new Child Help Desk at Salem Station in India in partnership with Southern Railways – which will keep hundreds of children safe from the dangers of the streets.
The busy and chaotic stations often provide a home for the thousands of desperate children that struggle to survive there. They face poverty, violence and exploitation every day – scavenging for food, collecting empty bottles and rags to earn money or even cleaning trains for a pitiful salary.
Many of them are trapped – unable or unwilling to find their way home – and have no-one to turn to who will care for and protect them. The new Child Help Desk will be providing this essential basic need. Clearly and colourfully marked it will offer advice for children who arrive at Salem whether they are lost, trafficked, abandoned or running away and find the right support to help them. Manned by child protection experts it will find safe places for them to stay and help trace families with help from government agencies and the railway police.
Our recent survey found that two or three children arrive unaccompanied at Salem Station every day. Among the 50,000 people and 182 trains that pass through daily, it is easy for these vulnerable children to be lost without trace. Without our intervention their future is bleak.
Salem is rife with organised traffickers using it as a transit point - selling girls into the textile industry, boys into ornament factories and with high reports of child marriage. Girls aged between 14 and 18 often end up as child labour in factories, exposed to cotton dust and chemicals, where they catch diseases and often only work for 18 months before they are too ill to continue. Boys as young as 12 get forced into workshops making silver ornaments, an industry Salem is known for, which is also rife with harmful conditions.
Railway Children has been fighting to reach these children and change the course of their lives before they are sucked into these dangerous lifestyles since 1996 and we have successfully reached 43,000 children in the last five years in India.
Our work at Salem is just beginning and with the help of this new Child Help Desk we aim to protect 5,500 children by 2022. It is part of our long term vision to create a network of Child Friendly Stations across India.
We won’t stop until we have achieved this and no child has to live on the streets.
Above: Chief Commercial Manager of Southern Railway Priyamvada Viswanathan celebrates the opening of the Child Help Desk at Platform 1 of Salem Railway Junction, with Hari Shankar Verma, Divisional Railway Manager, A Vijuvin, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager, and other officials.