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‘Critical to step up our work now’

In the wake of Kathua case, Vidya joins hands with NGO to increase awareness on child sexual abuse, likely to reach out to government for support

In light ofthe increasing cases of child sexual abuse, Vidya Balan has taken it upon herself to take forward the cause she addressed with Kahaani 2 (2016) where she played a survivor of sexual assault. The actor has come on board as the goodwill ambassador of Arpan, a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation that works in tandem with schools and communities to increase awareness on the subject.

Besides offering counselling services to survivors of such incidents, and training parents and teachers to be vigilant, the organisation has designed the Personal Safety Education programme, which has been included in the curriculum of over 100 schools across Mumbai. The project is aimed at teaching children how to protect themselves from sexual predators, with an emphasis on understanding the good touch and bad touch.

As she steps into her new role, Balan will work with the organisation to expand the reach of the project to other schools across Maharashtra.

A source says: “Vidya will also help them formulate new initiatives that can be added to the current programme. Once the complete programme has been designed, they are considering reaching out to the Ministry of Women and Child Development, requesting them to make it mandatory in schools.”

In a country that is largely inhibited when it comes to discussing the grim reality, Balan says her first objective is to start a dialogue on the subject. “My message to everyone is, don’t think that child sexual abuse is something that happens to others’ children. The unfortunate truth is that it could happen to your child, or it could be happening to your child,” she says.

The actor adds that parents and teachers need to play a larger role in combating the social malaise. “We need to acknowledge when we see the signs. We need to educate our children so that when they experience an unsafe situation, they are empowered enough to get away and seek help from a trusted adult.”

Balan adds that the Kathua rape case has been a rude eye-opener for the society. “Given the current scenario in our country, it is critical that we step up and work towards preventing this social evil now more than ever.

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