As one steps inside the ‘All Women Police Station’ in Salem town, 345 km from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, lady cops in neatly-tucked uniforms can be seen engrossed in their duties. This is the place where distressed women come to seek help. A policewoman here dons a dual hat – one of a cop and the other of a counsellor. When NDTV visited the police station, the lady cops showed excitement about another additional responsibility that they will now partake – taking charge of the newly-opened child-friendly corner.
This child-friendly room was inaugurated last week under Project Udhayam, an initiative of Salem City Police in partnership with UNICEF India. The room, colorfully painted with famous cartoon caricatures, and filled with books, colours and games, aims to offer a friendly vibe to children in distress. This would be the first stop for children who have been sexually abused, abandoned, kidnapped or lost, and they will be provided care and protection here.
The one behind this initiative, Sanjeev Kumar, Commissioner of Police, Salem City, said, “Out of every two children, 1 child is abused, shows the reports. Our aim is to make police more child-friendly so that children have the confidence to approach us without any fear.”
Mr Kumar added that with the support of UNICEF, a training session of 20 child welfare police officers was conducted. These policemen then went to the schools and taught students the difference between good touch and bad touch. “It’s an ongoing programme and we aim to cover all 109 schools in Salem. We hope that awareness will lead to good results,” he said.
In Salem city, all police stations now have at least one police personnel who has been equipped with knowledge and sensitised to protect victims of violence and child abuse, he added.
UNICEF’s Technical Consultant for Child Protection, Varunanvelu, said that since police is the first contact point for children in most vulnerable situations, their role is crucial. UNICEF trained 250 police personnel, from head constable to ACP, to handle child distress cases.
In the outreach programme that followed, training sessions were held in the schools. So far, 23 schools have been covered and training of good and bad touch has been imparted to over 23,000 children. Two child-friendly corners, one in Salem city and the other in Suramangalam police station have also been built, he added.
He also said that children’s training allies with UNICEF’s Adolescent Empowerment Programme in Tamil Nadu’s Salem and Dharmapuri districts.
Visibly excited about this role, sub-inspector Ramana said, “A child in distress usually gets intimidated by seeing a cop in uniform. Since we have decided to meet them in civil dress, they will be more open towards us. By meeting these children, our womanhood takes a backseat and motherly affection takes over.”