The state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has been witness to different phases of civil unrest over the last two and half decades. Children are worst hit as frequent unrests and curfews disrupt normal daily activities and force closure of schools. There are fewer opportunities for children to play, learn and socialize with friends which in turn affects their mental and social well-being. Children in conflict-affected areas such as Kashmir are at risk of physical harm, trauma and other mental health issues. They are also at risk of dropping out of schools and developing psycho-social problems. You can support children’s education in Kashmir by donating towards our Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS).
The CFS centres provide a safe environment for children even during times of civil unrest when the school are closed. At the CFS, the children participate in a variety of activities including sports, craft, drawing, painting, debates and other capacity development programmes. These activities are imperative for children’s growth and development. In addition, these safe spaces act as a platform to identify community children in need of special care and protection. More than 19,000 children are currently enrolled in over 100 CFSs, with nearly 50% participation of girls.
Rifa (name changed) is a 12-year-old girl living in Larkipora, a remote village in the Anantnag district of Kashmir. She left her studies in the 6th standard due to poverty but mainly as a result of the civil unrest in Kashmir. Rifa’s father drives an auto for a living but due to frequent strikes, curfews and blockades, he could not earn enough to support his family. Her sister has multiple disabilities and her brother left home after 8th standard. Rifa’s mother could barely support her family let alone support Rifa’s education. This led to Rifa dropping out of school. However, dropping out did not mean that Rifa did not want to go to school.
How Rifa joined a child-friendly space (CFS)
Rifa would often come and sit outside the Larkipora Child-Friendly Space (CFS) centre run by ActionAid Association. A CFS staff noticed Rifa and started interacting with her. Though nervous at first, Rifa eventually shared her story and her wish to join the CFS centre.
After hearing her story, our CFS staff convinced Rifa’s parents to enrol her in the CFS centre. They made regular visits to Rifa’s house and met her parents, counselled them on the importance of education, child rights and spoke about the enthusiasm Rifa has shown to join the centre. Finally, Rifa’s parents agreed. At the CFS centre, Rifa is now able to learn, play and interact with other children. She actively participates, sometimes even lead the activities being conducted at the centre be it drawing or painting or sports.
Back to school
With no money to pay her school fees, Rifa couldn’t go to school even though she wanted to. Our CFS staff approached the nearest school and discussed in detail about Rifa’s situation. The school authorities kindly agreed to integrate Rifa back in school free of cost until she completes her basic elementary education.
You can help other children like Rifa who have little or no access to education. Donate online to help children in Kashmir get access to basic education, and space where they can be themselves. Our CFS centres support out-of-school children, differently-abled, children from the economically weaker background and children with psychosocial issues. Your support will help ensure they are able to learn, grow and play with their friends in a safe space.