“My daughter is 15 years old and my husband was arranging for her marriage. When I read Surokhito Gram Karyakrom’s comic book, I learnt that girls shouldn’t get married before the age of 18. It’s not good for their health and the future. It was difficult to convince my husband, but he agreed eventually”, a mother from a remote village in the district of Bardhaman, West Bengal.
‘Surokhito Gram Karyakrom’ comic in the Bengali language aims to raise awareness among children, women and communities about child trafficking. The comic book focuses on the story of a ‘Guardian Girl’ Rani who educates the communities on how to protect children, women and girls from traffickers. The book delivers a trafficking prevention message in an appropriate cultural context and visual format, along with simple vocabulary to capture the attention of rural people, including people with low literacy levels.
Making it relevant to all ages, the comic book has characters of:
– A Good Father who protects his daughter ‘like a farmer protects his crops’
– An Informed Mother who ‘will not marry her daughter before she turns 18’
– A Guardian Girl who ‘is determined to study and raise awareness about child trafficking’
– A Smart Boy who ‘respects girls and acts an influencer to prevent trafficking’
“Child trafficking is a tough topic and our comic book is an effective means to communicate the dangers of trafficking in a way that is empowering, thoughtful and educational. It is resonant with readers of all ages and hugely popular among children. During our field visit, each participant is handed over a copy to take it back home. It stays with them and proves to be a reinforcing tool as the conversation about various characters continue to take place in their homes”, said Vivian Isaac, Program Director of My Choices Foundation.
West Bengal is one of the most vulnerable states where deep-rooted harmful societal practices such as child marriage, child labour and unsafe migration are highly prevalent. Additionally, COVID-19 has fuelled cases of child marriage and school dropouts, triggered by financial pressures and increased unsafe online practices. Thousands of women and girls are lured to cities each year by traffickers who promise good jobs or with a prospect of happy marriage, but sell them into modern-day slavery.
My Choices Foundation, Hyderabad based-NGO conducts Surokhito Gram Karyakrom, aimed at sensitising at-risk community members about child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation by organising field-based programmes and communication tools such as comic books, flip charts, educational videos and roleplays.