Miguel Das Queah one of the most popular figure in the domain of NGO from North East and a really inspiring person. His NGO UTSAH is leading in North East right now.
The Business Daily got an opportunity to interact with Miguel and we are sure our interview of him will inspire you as well.
Why did you think of taking your career in this field?
I have been subjected to sexual abuse as a child myself. Initially, the drive came from my own personal experience and hence my empathy for abused children. However, with time the issue became greater than the self. The gap in support services in my State for sexually abused children motivated me to expand my work in this sector.
Would you like to share you struggling story?
Every day come with a set of opportunities and challenges. While we could reach to more and more children through our programme; raising funds for child sexual abuse prevention and response work has always been a challenge. It is easier to source funds to build a well, procure books and bags. However, there are very less funders who like to support a programme that is HR heavy. For providing psycho-social-legal support to children or to build the response related capacities of the functionaries within the Child Protection workforce, we depend on professional lawyers, social workers and counselors. Very few funding agencies or PSUs(as part of their CSR) want to support HR components. Therefore, we are always struggling to sustain high quality staff in the organization.
Tell us about “Utsah” and Why “Utsah”? And not something else? Is there any reason behind this particular name?
There are two things in this aspect. Since we were a group of individuals who had come together to help address the issue of violence against children, we had named ourselves ‘Universal Team for Social Action and Help’. Coincidently, the acronym of the name of our organization was reflective of the philosophy that our team lent its existence to – to inspire the community to protect its children.
We stay ground to earth, we like to stay near the Community so that it would be easy for the Community to come to us when they need to.
In Assamese, UTSAH means ‘to inspire’.
What is the vision of Utsah?
UTSAHs vision is to make Child Protection an absolute reality – in terms of community’s awareness on child protection, informed and empowered children having agency to access their rights and a robust Child Protection response system.
As the prime focus of your NGO is to protect Child from Sexual Abuse, so would you like to shed some light to it for our readers as it is still something many are unaware of.
Sexual Abuse has different forms. It can be penetrative, touch and non-touch. The World Health Organization defines Child Sexual Abuse as “the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society. Child sexual abuse is evidenced by this activity between a child and an adult or another child who by age or development is in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, the activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person.” The age of child has been fixed as 18 and below under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, the Indian Special Law that deals with the subject of Child Sexual Abuse. This law defines various kinds of sexual abuse on children – Penetrative Sexual Assault(penetration with sexual intent), Sexual Assault(touch with sexual intent) and Sexual Harrasment(non-touch with sexual intent). Sexual Abuse can be traumatic for a child and therefore every child needs to be protected from incidents of abuse. In case of a commission, every child needs necessary support to report, to overcome the physical and mental trauma, and to secure legal justice.
Utsah is currently leading in Northeast. What is your further goal?
Our goal is to educate children and communities on Child Protection, for purposes of prevention. We want to establish mechanisms of prevention and reporting at all levels – schools, panchayats, anganwadi centres etc. We also have a mission to activate and strengthen those components of the Child Protection System that can help abused children access high quality mental health support, community care, social protection, witness protection, legal justice and other rehabilitative services, essential for physical, psychological and social recovery.
How does it feel to help all these children?
It is the only thing we know how to do. No doubt it is exhausting but surely keeps us motivated.
Would you like to say something about your achievements as of now?
We measure our progress with the changes we are being able to make in the lives of children. As far as our prevention initiatives are concerned we have been able to reach out to over 2 Lakh children, where we have educated children in Child Protection, across the State. Through our Direct Child Support programme we have been able to help more than 350 children access psychological and legal support.
As far as our System Strengthening work is concerned we have been able to train hundreds of Child Welfare Committee Members, Juvenile Justice Boad Members, ZilaParishad Members, Panchayat leaders, School Teachers, in various Child Protection aspects.
Through our partnership with Assam Police and UNICEF we have been able to roll out the Assam Police SishuMitra Programme, one of the largest child friendly Policing programmes in the country. This programme seeks to build the capacities of Police Officers to effectively and sensitively respond to cases of crimes against children and is being anchored by the Assam Police under the leadership of the DGP Mr. BhaskarJyotiMahanta and ADGP(A) Mr. Harmeet Singh. My team and I have trained and provided in-depth technical handholding support to more than 600 Police Officials under this Programme with sustained support from CID. As a result of this Programme Child Protection has received the priority that it deserves, and subsequently children are being able to access high quality support from the police during the entire investigation phase.
By Ankita and Soumen