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UNICEF Releases “Play It Safe” Children’s Opinion Poll On Safety
" The survey is a comprehensive and definitive guide for policymakers to create child-friendly and violence-free schools. "

 “Earlier I didn’t know that there are various forms of violence. I now know not only to recognise violence but also report it by calling Childline at 1098, a helpline designed for children in distress.” These words were spoken by Poonam, a 17-year-old Kathkari tribal girl from Raigad district at the launch 'Play It Safe;' report  in Mumbai.

The Standard 12th student was one among the 5,000 children who participated in the survey conducted by UNICEF, NINEISMINE and Mumbai Smiles in eight districts—Nandurbar, Latur, Chandrapur, Jalna, Yavatmal, Mumbai, Pune and Raigad. The Play It Safe report features the findings of the opinion poll as well as recommendations based on the survey. 

Play It Safe poll invited 13 to 17-year-olds to speak about the violence they have faced or have witnessed others being subjected to. The 130-odd page report provided readers a 360-degree-view of the kind of violence and abuse—physical, sexual, psychological, economic abuse and neglect—that children face today, the settings where they feel most vulnerable and the children who are more vulnerable than others owing to physical disabilities, living in conflict areas and belonging to socially disadvantaged groups.  Sixteen-year-old Soumya from Yavatmal felt unsafe at home because her mother and grandmother fight a lot and 12-year-old Sandhya from Latur felt unsafe because there were no toilets in her school.

Mr. Rahul More, Deputy Director, Department of Women and Child Development, Government of Maharashtra, Mr. Diwakar Kalpande, Assistant Project Officer, Department of Tribal Development, Government of Maharashtra, Ms. Rajeshwari Chandrasekhar, Chief of Field Office for UNICEF in Maharashtra and Brother Steve Rocha, Convenor of NINEISMINE attended the launch.Prominent child rights activists and members of various non-governmental organisations working in the area of child protection were also present.

Speaking at the launch, Ms. Chandrasekhar commended children who participated in the survey, “These children have broken the silence surrounding sensitive issues. Yet at the same time, it is alarming to note that a majority of children have accepted violence as normal. They seldom report violence to authorities for fear of repercussions.

"One in every three children fears punishment. Almost one in five feels ashamed and like he has no one to turn to. We believe that the opinion poll is a part of the process of change that aims to make communities, villages and cities safer for children,” Ms. Chandershekhar added.

The Mr. Kalpande hailed the survey as a comprehensive and definitive guide for policymakers on tribal development. He reiterated the government’s commitment to make Ashramshalas more child-friendly and violence-free. Mr. More urged NGOs present to build on the findings of the survey and to demonstrate a model child-friendly village through a pilot project.

Brother Steve, who summarised the findings of the survey said, “The report features data as well as anecdotes from the children we had been interviewed.  Children perceive being compared unfavourably to their siblings and peers as a form of violence. These are not incidents that most grown-ups would consider as violence. In that sense, the opinion poll is an eye-opener for all stakeholders.”

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