Children Collective

Children, they have been the core of all Thozhamai’s activities for the sole reason that they are the most vulnerable and their voices are often unheard. We as an organization ensure that children participate at all levels, to an extent our founder often mentions about giving them the voting rights. Our focus is to create a society in which the most vulnerable sections enjoy Equality, Social Justice, Freedom, Fraternity and Democracy.

In the year 2007, Thozhamai initiated a fact finding and to its utter disbelief, it was found that the state of people who were forcefully evicted from their original place of dwelling and relocated. The process had violated human rights, and these were perpetuated on them by the duty bearers themselves. This literally triggered Thozhamai to rethink on not that solidarity would be the key component towards pollical action and advocacy but working at the grassroots. This was a major policy shift for the organization. In fact, this has aided us to look keenly on our approach too.


Relocation had its own repercussions on the lives of the people at large but for children it was devastating and completely unheard. It is known that all rights are for children as well but when their right to be educated is violated, it creates an undeniable dent that is everlasting.

We at Thozhamai, with its core policy shift went to the grassroots, heard the children, encouraged them to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. As a practice the organization conducted special enrollment camps with the support of Department of School Education, Government of Tamil Nadu during the preceding months of school enrollment to ensure no child is left out of formal education.

The success of these campaigns is that the entire movement is taken up by peer leaders who were trained as Child Rights Defenders.

Particularly parents of girl children in the age group of 14-18 years are intensely counselled and motivated to provide continued education for them. Apart, assistance is also provided to secure admission in schools and meet all necessary requirements. Through these, 185 children were benefited by follow up and enrolment campaigns. The highlight of the campaign is that it is spear headed by peer leaders who have been trained as Child Rights Defenders.

Community Mobilization to make School Management Committees (SMC) Functional and Effective

Thozhamai, over the years firmly believes in community participation, they have strongly believes that the quality of Government Schools will drastically improve if only the community has a sense of ownership towards the schools, similarly how they ownership towards there village temples. To realise this consciousness, series of awareness and training programs were conducted for children, parents and school authorities with emphasis on role of School Management Committees as enshrined in the RTE Act, 2009. As an outcome of such sustained awareness and capacity building initiatives people came forward to participate in the management of the school affairs and brought a notice of lack of adequate teaching staff and class rooms.

Thozhamai on its part mobilised people and guided them to take forward their struggle to an appropriate departments, concerned officials and ensured that shortcomings were rectified. On ascertaining that lack of drinking water and separate toilet for girls were major reasons for school dropouts, Thozhamai highlighted there issue in different platforms. The children capacitated by Thozhamai deposed before the then NCPCR Chairperson, Ms.Nina Nayak in a ‘Public Hearing’ and put forth their grievances, the documentation prepared by Thozhamai also convinced the Chairperson who personally visited the school and issued necessary directives. On account of this, all requirements were fulfilled by concerned departments. Similarly, lack of adequate teachers and class rooms was taken up to a concerned authorities by community members. With help of Thozhamai vacancies were filled and new class rooms had been constructed.

Due to non availability of Higher Secondary school in Semmencherry, children had to seek admission in a nearby school, but school authorities refused to accept the students. Since this impasses could jeopardised an education of the children, Thozhamai took this matter to the Collector and higher authorities in the Education department. On account of sustained campaign at different levels, finally the High School was upgraded as Higher Secondary School. This was possible due to persistent unity and pressure from demander side.

Children Activity Centres

Recognising that learning is an active process that must involve children’s engagement, Thozhamai with the financial support of ECOMWEL established five activity Centres for children in an age group of 12-15 years. The pedagogy is based on the “Learning in a Circle” concept, and aims is to facilitate learning in a Child friendly and Child Rights based environment. Activities like singing, storytelling, drawing, dancing, and acting were effectively used to encourage children to overcome inhibition and anxiety in dealing with life issues, to explore and exhibit their talents. 358 children were benefited through this initiative. Through these centres five child protection groups consisting of 30 children have been formed and on a quarterly basis child protection awareness programmes are conducted to enable them to live a dignified life.

Similarly with the view to inculcate reading habit and enhance reading skills among the children, a well staffed and stocked library has been established. The facility has been patronised by children and adults with enthusiasm.

Life Skills Training

Children in Semmenchery grow up in a hostile and skewed social environment, exposed to harsh realities and unhealthy influences. In order to build strong individuals, children are provided with life skills training. These skills enable them to know what to say, how to make good choices and how to behave in diverse situations. The issues which are addressed in the training in relation to local context are puppy love, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviour, child abuse, child marriage, child labour, teenage pregnancy and child rights. Programmes are conducted by trained professionals with support of field staff who are well acquainted with the demographics of the local children. The programme is organised with the financial support from NAZ Foundation. To ensure holistic development of children especially girl children, Thozhamai gives equal importance to extra-curricular activities.

On account of its systematic and sustained engagement with children of the community, it help to develop a competitive women’s Net Ball team and enabled them to compete in a national level tournament. This approach contributed to empowering and enabling the children to challenge traditional perceptions of their capacity and role within society. currently, this program is named as future maker and it was funded by women win organization.

Semmencherry is composed of heterogeneous group of people from different slums where haphazardly relocated to this site. This has led to frequent conflicts among them. To bring about social cohesion among the residents, especially children. To inculcate team spirit and leadership qualities, four adolescent groups have been formed consisting of 124 girls in the age group 13 years to 18 years. The groups are animated through monthly meetings in which common issues, community issues; general family issues and personal issues are discussed and shared amongst them. On a regular basis the groups are given awareness in child rights and child protection.

Special Focus on Vulnerable Groups

Orphan children and children of single parents constitute a large social group in Semmenchery. To help them to effectively integrate with the society despite stigma and economic constrains attached to their social status, Thozhamai, with support from Action Aid, designed education materials specifically for this target group. In the process of education, children’s personal, family and cultural histories, shape their learning and development. The children learn best when educators respect their diversity and provide them with the best support, opportunities and experiences. To this end, trained staffs assist the children using the specially designed material which helps them to meet their academic requirements and also emotionally and intellectually cope up with life situations. 96 vulnerable children in this category so far have benefited through this intervention.

Supportive Education and Guidance Centre

Children in the age group of 15 – 18 years are excluded from the ambit of RTE Act, 2009 and there is no other mechanism to retain them in the mainstream education system. To avoid this gap in the policy to jeopardise the education of the economically marginalised and vulnerable children, a ‘Supportive Education and Guidance Centre’ has been established with assistance from Munadhi Foundation. Through this facility 10th and 12th grade students are adequately coached to confidently appear and perform well in the board exams. The centre until now has helped 58 children of which two students have secured the first two ranks in this region. As a follow up, children are also provided academic guidance, information on nature of courses offered in various colleges and universities, the qualifications required for admission, scholarships available for SC/ST students are all disseminated helping the children to make informed choices. Children who are not interested in regular college studies are provided with alternate options. On account of this initiative 12 individuals have completed Diploma in Computer Application offered by CSC Computer education, 16 individuals have undergone training in Banking and Accounting conducted by Scope International, 7 students are pursuing degree programmes through Open University and 3 beneficiaries have under gone 3 months bridge course at Stella Maris College. Two persons have secured free hostel facilities, 12 persons have undergone teacher training courses and one student has completed Diploma in nursing.

Leisure, Recreation and Cultural Activities

Children are provided an opportunity to acquire skills in arts, acting, drama and street theatre. Trained professionals impart training to children teaching the nuances of acting, voice modulation, body language and dialogue delivery. This medium is used as a platform for expression of their narratives and also to create awareness on social issues. During summer holidays sports camps, quizzes and cultural events are organised. This also ensures that children are safe and productively engaged when their parents are at work and return late in the evening. The events where organised with the support of Concern India foundation, ECOMWEL and AID India.

Spoken English Classes

The children were poor in english and they could not pay for tuition classes, thus to install confidence and overcome their inferiority feelings, a comprehensive one month ‘Spoken English’ class was conducted for 45 children from the relocation sites. Scientifically designed curriculum was administered on the students to learn English conversation and basic grammar.

Health & Nutrition

Social evidence and feedback from field staff indicate poor hygiene and health consciousness among the relocated community. Due to the prevalence of child marriages there is an increase in adolescent pregnancy, early child bearing and early motherhood. To addresses the health issues, medical camps are being organised in association with Ekam Foundation, as an outcome of the camp it was found that 94 individuals were anemic. Medical counselling was provided to them and where followed up by Thozhamai staff. As a follow up to the medical camp a reproductive health awareness programme was organised in association with Kosha Hospital. Leading gynecologists spoke on reproductive health, sexuality and other pertinent health issues and conducted full health check up for women. Thozhamai facilitated a study on the health status of adolescent children in Semmencherry which was conducted by department of Community Medicine, Madras Medical College.

They conducted an awareness programme for adolescent girls on nutrition, child care, health and hygiene. Around 750 community members have been covered by different medical camps targeting different health aspect over the years.

Thozhamai brought to the fore the rampant prevalence of substance abuse among children in Semmencherry relocation site. Along with TT Ranganathan Drug De-addiction Centre a study was commissioned on the problem. Through the study it was found that children in the age group of 10 years to 18 years were more prone to alcohol dependence and substance abuse. Around 30 children were identified with the problem of substance abuse. Since the findings were bizarre and the issue sedate officials from National Result Institute, New Delhi visited the relocation site for further inquiry. The study drew the attention of social scientist, Child Rights activists, Government and media.
The prevalence of anemia is high in Semmencherry, women and adolescents girl, for this anemic iron tablets are provided on regular basis.

Monitoring Child Rights Violation

On a daily basis child rights violations taking place in the state are monitored by tracking news reports. Details of the violation are collected and a case is built with linkages to laws and international instruments which have been violated. A complaint is filed with TNSCPCR (Tamil Nadu State Commission for Protection of Child Rights), NCPCR (National Commission for Protection of Child Rights), Child Protection Units, District Collectors, Chiefs of Police and concerned local authorities. The complaints are continuously followed using RTI (Right to Information), the authorities until justice is delivered. End of every month a compilation of various violations is sent from Chief Ministers Cell to local authorities. The impact and success of the initiative has been very encouraging, many authorities dutifully provide feedback on the status and actions taken.