Girls Raise Their Voices to Tackle Child Sexual Abuse

A student decorating T-shirts with the Darr Kar Nahi Datkar logo to raise awareness of the campaign.

On this International Day of the Girl, we’re celebrating Teach For India alumna Sneha Aiyer and her students for expanding opportunities for girls in their community. Last year, Shena worked with her students to develop the Darr Kar Nahi Datkar (DKND) (“Don’t be scared, be brave”) project to address child sexual abuse in Sangam Vihar, their neighborhood in Delhi, and one of the largest unauthorized colonies in Asia. In Sangam Vihar, sexual abuse of children is widespread and a recent survey shows that one in every two children is a victim of sexual abuse in India.

Sneha's class of 90 eighth grade girls developed the DKND project as part of their annual participation in the Design for Change challenge, where students use Design For Change’s four-step design process of Feel-Imagine-Do-Share to develop solutions to critical problems they identify in their communities.

To push her students to think beyond the most apparent issues in Sangam Vihar, such as excess waste and poverty, Sneha reframed the question and asked the girls to share the one obstacle they believe stands in the way of their ability to realize their potential.

Many of Sneha’s students spoke of child sexual abuse as a key issue. To her astonishment, more than 70% of the children in her class had faced some kind of sexual abuse.

Sneha and her students worked together to define the problem they wanted to address and develop potential solutions. The process led to the creation of toolkits that include a variety of resources to help children fight against child sexual abuse, including DKND wristbands and t-shirts, which they distributed to children in the community to help raise awareness and serve as an ice-breaker for families that are uncomfortable discussing the issue.

Above: Sneha's students meet the local police inspector. Below: Pamphlet on good and bad touch, created as part of the DKND toolkit.

Sneha and her students led workshops to teach girls and their mothers how to make their own pepper spray and paint teacups with the DKND logo. “If someone comes to your house and you serve them chai in a cup that has a logo on it about child sexual abuse, that’s a good way to spark a conversation about this,” Sneha explained. “In India, it’s so rampant but it’s never talked about. We talk about murder, we talk about rape, but child sexual abuse is also a crime and should be spoken about.”

Through their efforts, the students reached close to 400 children in the community and worked with 20 families to raise awareness of the issue. Following the workshops, they produced a report discussing their approach to addressing child sexual abuse, shared it with local schools and NGOs, and spoke with officers at two police stations.

The DKND project was recognized at Design For Change’s 2016 ‘I Can Awards’ with a 50,000 rupee prize, which the girls donated to their school. The project also inspired students at a school in Canada to launch their own anti-bullying campaign, which Sneha says was especially affirming for her students. “My kids used to always talk about how they get inspired by others, but for them to see that they had inspired so many children to do something was really special.”

No matter the challenges they face, Sneha knows her former students are brimming with the potential to transform their lives, their communities, and the world. “They just need the belief coming from people they look up to,” she said. “They are so enthusiastic, they are bursting with energy and they want to learn so much. I’m just waiting for them to blossom.”

The DKND video Sneha created to explain the project.

Learn more about Girls’ Education initiatives across the Teach For All network.