A Bangalore-based NGO, SICHREM, has been conducting human rights education programmes in over 100 schools and colleges that the government and other agencies run.The NGO also monitors and reports human rights violations in Bangalore and other districts of the State. Pushpa Achanta chalks out the programmes of the organisation.
“Charity begins at home,” said the wise. But the founders of the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) decided that they would make human rights “a household concept”. For the last 17 years, this NGO with its headquarters in Lingarajapuram (in north-east Bangalore), has been involved in creating awareness on fundamental rights to socially marginalised people.
Apart from this, it also enlightens people from low income backgrounds on relevant legislations, government schemes and entitlements. For these activities, SICHREM collaborates with other NGOs and community-based organisations (CBOs) that work among people who are financially challenged.
SICHREM has been conducting human rights education programmes in over 100 schools (for classes VI-VII over a three-year period) and colleges that the government and other agencies run.
These extensive courses cater to students and members of the faculty.
“Hearteningly, students receiving human rights education in government schools ensure that their teachers are regular. And the staff is wary of corporal punishment,” observed Margaret Sampath who handles human rights education and counselling at SICHREM.
The NGO also monitors and reports human rights violations in Bangalore and other districts of Karnataka. It intervenes legally on behalf of people abused by government representatives or others.
Around two decades ago, some concerned citizens from Bangalore, who were previously associated with the civil liberties movement, envisioned a fearless society which respects the rights of the most marginalised, uniformly.
To respond to the growing insensitivity to the law, they started SICHREM in 1995. “Being non-negotiable on responsible governance and affirmative action is the raison d’etre of SICHREM. We believe in showing absolute solidarity with survivors of discrimination, repression and violence irrespective of whether the perpetrator is the state, an individual, group or entity,” said Manohar R, the Head of Programmes at the NGO.
This level of conviction and commitment to their duties is visible among all members of the staff at SICHREM.
As it grew in Bangalore, SICHREM also set up human rights centres in the headquarters of five districts of Karnataka in collaboration with voluntary organisations that were active in the local areas.
These units have been carrying out many tasks pertaining to the documentation and tracking of human rights violation—caste, gender or faith based violence on individuals or communities, intimidation of juvenile or adult survivors of abuse who seek redressal through legal means, torture of prisoners—carrying out awareness and protest campaigns where required.
Among the primary initiatives of SICHREM are the mobile legal clinics that it has been running for the last seven years. Chithra Ranganadan, who is the associate co-ordinator for Right to Education at SICHREM said, “Through CBOs associated with people living in different financially backward neighbourhoods in Bangalore, we conduct interactions every month. During each session which lasts for about four hours, two volunteer lawyers advise 12-15 residents on how to resolve their domestic, employment or other challenges and disputes.”
For instance, SICHREM recently held its clinic in an economically deprived part of Vivek Nagar (a locality in south central Bangalore) in partnership with Ananya Global Concerns, an NGO based in Bangalore, which mainly helps local women and children who are susceptible to trafficking and gender violence and also gives educational support to school students.
One of the women present that afternoon was Mary, a 35-year-old domestic worker and mother of four young children whose husband Peter has become an alcoholic. She said, “Peter was fairly responsible and used to sell tea for a living. But ever since he started drinking, he prefers to remain aloof and is hardly willing to talk to anyone in our immediate environment or our family. My earnings are insufficient to run the household”.
The male lawyer present suggested that Mary could take her husband to the next session so that he could try to counsel the latter.
And when Saroja, aged 29, talked about her difficulty in providing monetary support for her unemployed and physically challenged younger brother Saravanan, the other lawyer advised her that Saravanan could apply for the government scheme that provides financial assistance to people with disabilities to establish an income generation enterprise. The lawyer also confirmed with Saroja that her brother was able to avail of the disability pension that the government gives.
Yet another important element of the services that SICHREM provides is its helpline (ph: 080-25473922/2856, firstname.lastname@example.org), which it operates from its office in Bangalore.
Launched in November 2000, it offers professional counselling to people in distress, from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm, Monday through Friday and between 9.30 am and 12.30 pm on Saturday in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and English. “The help line was open only in the afternoon on every Friday, initially.
But the number and type of calls encouraged us to increase the duration of availability of the help line. We now receive an average of 20 calls per day on marital issues, wage problems, child labour et al. Further, a lawyer is also accessible between 3.30 and 5.30 pm from Monday to Friday at the SICHREM office”, shared Manohar.
So, if you want to learn about your basic rights and duties, know how to hold the government accountable or assist someone who is facing the wrath of the state or community, you know whom to contact.
Source: Deccan Herald; Dated 11/12/2012