Do You Remember Alia Bhatt’s Movie- Highway? Of course, we do. We do remember it because of the outstanding performance of Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda, and the unique storyline. But what we don’t remember is the issue it tried to showcase. We watch movies like Highway, Laxmi, Water etc; applaud them; and move on with our respective lives. But things don’t work this way for the woman named ‘Pooja Taparia’- Founder And Chief Executive of ‘Arpan’.
Pooja went to watch a play one fine day in 2004, and never did she imagine in her rarest dreams that a play would change her life. The play depicted trauma and distress of a victim of Child Sexual Abuse and how the unfortunate incident affected her actions all her life. The disturbed mental state, the miseries, the lack of trust showcased the untold story of the henious crime. The play left a lasting impression on her heart and soul, that she decided to dedicate her life fighting for the issue.
Pooja, as a child was always keen on bringing a revolution in the society. She would go around in neighbourhood to get donations for the blind, the disabled, orphans, etc. She got more focused, soon after completing her high school as she started spending most of her time with mentally challenged children at SPJ Sadhana School.
Graduated in Applied Art/ Graphic Design and in Commerce, she invested considerable time in setting up her family business and managing a number of high profile freelance design print and web media projects for companies and individuals. In 2002, she started working with Sandipani Vidyaniketan, an eduational institution that provides free education to children. Her dedication towards working towards betterment of society grew stronger as she dedicated over 8,000 hours in the voluntary sector.
Formation Of Arpan:
As time passed, she started looking for ways to make a full time career in this sector in a more structured and organised manner in order to make a bigger impact. With a vision of bridging the gap between privileged and under-privileged sections of society, she formed Arpan-Making Little Differences in 2003. She aimed to do it by mobilising civil society to get more involved in the acts of charity.
However, after watching the play, Pooja decided to convert Arpan into an organisation that would work exclusively in the field of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). She feels that such experiences can disturb a person’s every act and decision. She says,
“You Can’t Imagine the psychological trauma a child goes through when he/she faces such abuse.”
Journey Of Arpan:
Pooja and her team started researching more about the issue. They contacted few NGOs for support. Through the process, Pooja got in contact with Ms. Pushpa Venkatraman from FACSE (Forum Against Child Sexual Exploitation), and both teamed up for the cause. Since then, Arpan officially started operating in 2007.
The journey started by networking and connecting with various educational institutes and organisations to know the behaviour of people towards the issue and spread awareness among them regarding the same.
Talking about sex (including consent, rape, abuse etc) is still considered a taboo in our country. We still are ignorant about the issues in the name of culture and so called ‘Sanskaar’.
Her first awareness talk was attended by just 26 people. She says,
“IN INDIA, talking about sex and sexuality is still a taboo. child sexual abuse is not even acknowledged as a Reality.
People were shocked when we started creating awareness about the issue. they would ask us ‘Does this really happen?’ they just could not digest the sheer number of children being sexually abused in india.”
How Big Is The Problem?
In 2007, The Government Of India surveyed 1,25,000 children in 13 states. Of the children interviewed, more than half (53%) said that they had been subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse. Over 20% of those interviewed said they were subjected to severe forms of abuse. Of those who said they were sexually abused, 57% were boys.
The problem is much bigger than we think. The child who faces sexual exploitation is either not listened to, or nobody believes the child.
Moreover, the child is expected to be quiet about the incidence because the culprit is generally known to family. Because, we live in a society where the so-called ‘Family Image‘ is more important than the life of own child.
The exploitation not only ruins the childhood of an innocent, but it follows him/her for rest of the life. A dark and bitter childhood leads to an awful life in which a person lacks self confidence, faces a huge communication gap with every other soul on the earth including family and closest friends, lacks trust and always have a feeling of disgust towards the society.
How Is Pooja Solving The Issue?
The dedicated team of Arpan has grown from 2 to 60 professionals in 9 years. They are working hard with a balanced emphasis on prevention and healing components. They have been engaged in creating awareness among children, their parents, teachers and other relevant stakeholders. Various psychotheraphy sessions are organised in order to restore confidence of victims. Counselling sessions are conducted for families at regular intervals.
The team of Arpan also organises awareness sessions with police cadets to sensitize them towards the issue of CSA. Till now, they have successfully empowered 3,800 police cadets.
The services of Arpan include:
Personal Safety Education Programme:The Personal Safety Education (PSE) programme is a life skill module with the belief that every child deserves to be safe from abuse.
Mental Health Services and TrainingIt’s important to heal the trauma and impact of the Child Sexual Abuse. Arpan works at various levels to help the client and the family to help them heal.
Child Sexual Abuse Prevention & TrainingArpan conducts trainings to suit numerous stakeholders; School authorities, NGO professionals, caretakers, staff, counselors & social service professionals.
Registered in Mumbai, Arpan’s direct work is with school children in Mumbai and Thane. But, there are no geographical boundaries for Arpan when it comes to the betterment of society. The training sessions are conducted out of Bombay too, anywhere in the Country.
In a time span of 9 years, Arpan has been able to reach out to over 70,000 individuals directly and 2,12,000 individuals indirectly including Children, parents, teachers etc. Pooja says,
We have been successful because of the passionate and motivated team members that arpan has. we have all worked hard and my team is truely the strength of arpan.”
Challenges During The Journey:
Pooja explains how difficult it was initially to procure funds for ‘Arpan’.
“it was a chicken and egg situation. investors want you to show the impact of your work before giving grants.
but how do you work if you don’t have the money?”
But if you are determined for the cause and have a strong will-power, nothing can stop you.
Awards and Recognition:
- Pooja Taparia has received ‘The Architects of The Future Award‘ in 2013 for her amazing work towards society.
- Her life work has been permanently put up as a part of the Waldzell Collection in Melk Abbey, a meseum in Austria.
- She was awarded Karmaveer Puraskar Award in 2010 by ICONGO in New Delhi for her work on Child Abuse.
- Arpan was recently honoured by ‘The Early Childhood Association, India’ with the award of ‘The Most Commited NGO’ in Early Childhood Care And Education, 2017.
What Keeps Her Going?
“CSA is a social problem. no individual or NGO CAN Solve it alone. the society at large has to come together and address the issue.”
While talking about her strengths, Pooja says,
“What keeps us going are our beneficiaries. their appreciation for our work, the changes we see in them because of us, their constant support to us reinstates our faith that we are on the right track.”
Pooja aims to create a legally, politically and emotionally supportive environment for the victims of Child sexual abuse. She aspire to make ‘Arpan’ a resource centre for those who want to gain knowledge about the issue. She has been thriving hard to bring changes at local, state, and national level.
We salute Pooja for her commendable work towards the cause and becoming an inspiration for all of us. We wish her to keep going because still there are miles to travel before rest.
Know more about Pooja Taparia and her work by Clicking here.
You can also contact her through Facebook.