Fully committed for 17 years to the defense of Children’s Rights, Ashish is our National Coordinator in India. Here he shares with us his journey, his motivation and his daily challenges, in a country where disparities and contrasts remain entrenched.
TdH Switzerland : Namasté* Ashish. Tell us about yourself.
A.G. : With a degree in social sciences and management, I’m almost 60. My humanitarian journey began in 1998, I was a consultant for a local NGO, that’s where I knew Terre des Hommes Suisse. Since 2005, I started to work as National Coordinator India. Till now I am trying to give my best for the beneficiaries, particularly children and youth and for the TdH Suisse as well.
TdH Switzerland : What do you like about your work?
A.G. : During these 17 years of journey with Terre des Hommes Suisse, I find it very interesting, challenging and satisfactory. It is so rewarding to witness the smiles of vulnerable and fragile children we help. I am delighted with the major changes brought about by our actions, these children and young people are considered as such, but also as actors of change. Their word is finally heard!
TdH Switzerland : Can you introduce us to the local team?
A.G. : We are 4 people: Riya, Palash, Soumitra and me. We manage 9 projects for the defense of Children’s Rights in collaboration with 8 local partners.
TdH Switzerland : What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had and still has?
A.G. : It was difficult but thanks to the support of the team in Geneva, we found solutions to ensure that children are protected and as little impact as possible. Last November, for example, we distributed more than 3,000 food kits and more than 10,000 hygiene kits so that children do not have to interrupt school remotely to go to work. We have outdoor courses and distance support courses. Still today, many children have not found their way back to school. The education and protection of children is at risk, which puts all our children in an extremely worrying situation.
TdH Switzerland : How do you keep the strength to face day after day?
A.G. : Children are the most vulnerable and vulnerable people. I sincerely believe that the defense of the Rights of the Child should be the absolute priority to save our humanity. Our approach to strengthening the participation of children and youth to become agents of change in favor of the Rights of the Child in their community brings forth many initiatives on their part. All this motivates us every day.
Tdh Switzerland : Can you tell us about a situation that moved you?
A.G. : I am thinking of Laxmi, a 15-year-old tribal girl from a small farming family in a remote village in the state of Jharkhand. The Covid-19 pandemic was very painful for his family, who could no longer sell his agricultural products, they no longer knew how to support themselves.
One afternoon, her parents told Laxmi she was getting married. She quickly contacted our local partner (RDA*) to ask for help. After much effort and perseverance, Laxmi’s parents finally agreed to stop the marriage. Today, she continues her studies thanks to the donors of Terre des Hommes Switzerland, and has passed her first exam.
What is the impact of TdH Switzerland’s actions in your country? What changes have been observed in beneficiary children?
A.G. : TdH Suisse is working with the children for many years not only for the education right but also for ensuring their right to participation. Through this process, children are sensitized on climate situation which is under constant threat due to the irresponsible behaviour of people. Children of our project area are constantly sensitized and capacitated to protect their environment. Many actions have been undertaken by children groups in their community such as :
- Community awareness rally
- Reduction of plastic usage
- Community Plantation
- Community cleaning
- Reduction of use of electricity
- Campaign for Solar Energy
TdH Switzerland : What are the current and future challenges?
A.G. : People are still worried regarding Covid-19 pandemic and the threat of uncertainty prevails. Education and Protection are the two areas where we should work with more effort since COVID 19 pandemic put all our children in extremely difficult situation in these two areas.
- Inequality in terms of income and expenditure among the Indian population. TOP 10% of country population is holding 57% of National Income in 2021 as per the recent world inequality report published recently.
- Finally, threat for environment is an issue which we should address and with the support of our beneficiaries particularly children and youth TdH Suisse is addressing for the future of our next generation. For years, climate and environmental issues have been major in India.
TdH Switzerland : Tell us about your actions for the environment?
A.G. : TdH Switzerland’s education for sustainable and inclusive development raises awareness of the environment among young people and children and their communities. Many actions have been taken by groups of children such as reducing plastic, sorting waste… Children are very invested. Their future is at stake!
TdH Switzerland : A word for our readers?
A.G. : From here, halfway around the world, it’s a chance to have your support. It is thanks to you that every day we can take action and defend the rights of children, here and elsewhere. I sincerely thank you.
* Greeting commonly used in India to say Hello
** Rural Development Association
TERRE DES HOMMES SUISSE IN INDIA
Terre des Hommes Switzerland has been active since 1995 in India with a solid network of local partners. Its actions are mainly concentrated in eastern India. It operates through National Coordination Office based in Kolkata and supports 8 projects on Education, Child Protection, and promotion of participation and citizenship in 4 states : Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal.
In 2021, there were 75,005 direct beneficiaries, including 44,217 children and youth*. These children, deprived of the public school system due to the pandemic, were able to receive quality educational support in order to continue their education and avoid the risks of exploitation, forced labor, early marriage and even human trafficking.
* figures AR 2021 TdH Switzerland