Nicole, India 2015

Nicole Dutton, former Treasurer for the University of Birmingham InterVol Society, worked with UTSAH in India in 2015. Find out about the work she did for child protection in a local community during her internship.

In the summer of 2015, through University of Birmingham’s InterVol society, I had the incredible opportunity of working with the North East Indian based NGO UTSAH. Throughout my four week internship at UTSAH our predominant focus was on producing an information-education-communication document for worldwide circulation. However the programme that was initially conceptualized around the creation of IEC materials transformed into a fully fledged research study on the status of children in Hafiznagar No2 Slum Area which could be used as a tool for policy level advocacy. The document aimed at highlighting the conditions of children in need of care of protection, using children living in the Hafiznagar No 2 slum settlement as our case study and focus group, allowing us to conduct questionnaires and formulate statistics. And on gathering this information, offering recommendations as to how these conditions and the level of livelihood of children living in slum settlements can be improved.

The main focus of the document was the Children at Risk chapter, which comprised of six sections of differing circumstance; Homelessness, Lack of Ostensible means of subsistence, Abuse, Exploitation, Drug Abuse and Lack of parental control. All circumstances faced by children living in Hafiznagar No 2, and across slum communities in India, putting them at risk and therefore in need of care and protection. Questionnaires were conducted with residents of the area and interviews were held with officials working within the child protection section in the state of Assam in order to analyse child safety in the region.

Looking at the major responses to questionnaires carried out with adults living in Hafiznagar No 2 regarding the reasoning behind their settlement in the slum area, a large majority of answers focused on the lack of rent related expenditure in Hafiznagar, meaning families have more to spend on other essentials to better their own, and their children’s livelihoods.

There was still work to be done on the project by the time we had come to the end of our internship in order to get our document to the high standard that we wanted it, so fortunately fellow interns Krishna and Savera remained with UTSAH for some time after to help complete the document.

To be part of such a potentially impactful project was a huge honour for me. During my four weeks with UTSAH we worked incredibly hard on collecting data and compiling research and it is so rewarding to know that this hard work could change the lives of children living in Hafiznagar No 2. With the help and guidance of Miguel we managed to produce something great which I will be proud to distribute to a wealth of NGO’s and Government figures in order to influence improvements in the care and protection of children living in Hafiznagar and across India. The evidence of a need for change is made clear with references to cases and recommendations offered by Miguel with the help of our research and study will provide a useful framework to governments on how to improve levels of children’s care and protection, an area that is currently considerably lacking under Government in India.

All in all, the project was incredible and I couldn’t think of a more rewarding way to spend part of my summer. My only regret would be not spending longer with UTSAH.  I learnt a lot during the month I spent working with UTSAH, predominantly about the crucial need for increased provisions for children in need of care and protection across Assam in order to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Whilst working with UTSAH I listened to some really devastating case studies from children and parents of sexual abuse and eviction from their homes amongst many others. It is impossible to imagine exactly what day to day life is like for children living in Hafiznagar No 2, however, it was so incredible to know that our hard work with the guidance of Miguel will help to improve their livelihood.

It was an honour to work with a team of people all so passionate about children’s rights and they really inspired me to become more involved with InterVol, becoming Treasurer for the University of Birmingham society upon returning to the UK.