Women Enpowerment: Pooja Taparia

Women Enpowerment: Pooja Taparia

Minors are being sexually abused and such cases are on the rise. Such incidents are being reported to the police but many cases go unreported. A child can be sexually abused by close family members which can leave psychological, social, and physical consequences. Awareness about sexual abuse among parents and children is very important and Arpan has taken the responsibility on their strong shoulders to work with issues on child sexual abuse.
Arpan is a registered NGO of skilled professionals working on the issue of child sexual abuse in Mumbai, India since the year 2006. Arpan works towards reducing the occurrence of child sexual abuse by empowering children and adults with skills and help survivors heal. Arpan has so far reached out to over 15000 children and adults with its various prevention and healing programs. www.arpan.org.in
Arpan is based on strong pillars and one of the strong pillar of arpan is Pooja Taparia who is helping to break the silence of society about child sexual abuse, Let us find out more about arpan from Pooja Taparia.
Pooja, welcome to naarisakhi.

1. NS: What does arpan exactly do?
Pooja: Arpan’s Prevention programs include empowering and training:
• Parents, teachers, NGO professionals, caretakers and student professionals with prevention and intervention skills through awareness and training workshops
• Children and adolescents with personal safety skills to protect themselves from CSA in schools through formal lesson plans in group and individual sessions
Healing programs include empowering:
• Child, adult survivors and trafficked minors to heal from trauma caused by CSA through counselling and therapy
• Sex offenders with therapeutic assistance to prevent re offence
• Mental health professionals with therapeutic skills to deal with CSA cases effectively
Advocacy work includes advocating with:
• Policy Makers for specific laws on CSA which are currently missing in India to prevent CSA
• School systems to incorporate personal safety skills into their curriculum

2. NS: Elaborate on your journey in establishing Arpan? 
Pooja: I always had an interest in social work right from my school days. Professionally I am a graphic designer as well as a commerce graduate. Somehow to serve society and the satisfaction felt by it has always driven me. I have spent over 8000 hours in the voluntary sector before I started Arpan.
I conceptualised Arpan in October 2003 with the aim to improve the lives of the underprivileged. I aimed to achieve this by mobilizing the community to volunteer their time and money towards making little differences in the lives of others. However when in 2004, when I saw a play on CSA it gave my vision for Arpan a new direction. The play depicted the severe trauma faced by a survivor of sexual abuse which really shook me. I saw the huge negative impact it has on the lives of survivors and I vowed coming out of the hall that one day I’ll do something about it. I don’t want innocent children to have such experiences.
I registered Arpan as Public Charitable Trust in year 2008. Today Arpan has grown into a team of 13 professionals, the largest known professional team in the country working on this issue in a focused manner.

3. NS: Some memorable incidences at Arpan?
Pooja: Every time I can see impact of the work we are doing it leaves an impression in my heart and mind.
I feel great when:
a. Children come and tell us they said ‘NO’ to someone who was trying to touch them inappropriately
b. Children say we even taught the ‘touching rules’ we learnt from you to our siblings and our friends
c. Parents and teachers tell us that they are so glad we are doing this program to help keep their children safe and they think it is very important to do this.
d. I see how the most sexually violated girls like rescued minors are able to pick up their lives and look forward to a bright future as a result of our counseling to them
e. I see how other sexually abused adults and children are able to understand their trauma, make life changing shifts as a result of empowerment by counseling
Each individual we reach out to is empowered by skills and support we give them.

4. NS: What age is the right age to educate children about sex education?
Pooja: There is no particular age that is appropriate to start giving sexuality education. In very simple ways and language as parents and teachers we should be talking to our children as young as 3 and 4 about their personal safety, their private body parts and how they can help keep themselves safe. All information given age appropriately is always useful to the child.

5. NS: What role parents and teachers play in avoiding sexual child abuse?
Pooja: Parents and teachers must be aware about child sexual abuse as the onus of protection always lies with the adults. Having awareness about child sexual abuse and acceptance towards this problem, that it can happen in their very home or to their child anywhere is the key.
Because most adults live in denial they don’t want to know about it. Parents and teachers should understand the problem, look for any symptoms and inquire further and play an extremely supportive role to the child if the child comes and reports any kind of abuse. Very often adults don’t believe the child. It’s extremely important to believe the child and extend help immediately. The child’s trauma will only increase if the child is not believed and supported.
They must also teach children personal safety skills; differences between safe and unsafe touches, names of private body parts, etc. so that children can run away from abusive situations and report about it.
As primary caretakers of children, parents and teachers must be aware and alert.

6. NS: Who are the people who are instrumental in your success?
Pooja: First and foremost my Guru, Shri Rameshbhai Oza who inspired me to do something for society. My parents Shri Pramodji Taparia and Smt. Pushpa Taparia who have been the wind beneath my wings without whose support I wouldn’t have been able to do anything.
My entire team, each individual from the year we began till today. Their commitment and enthusiasm has been great.
UnLtd India, a social enterprise that supports start-up social entrepreneurs. I didn’t know anything about the social sector when I started so their guidance at that time was very crucial to Arpan’s establishment and growth.

7. NS: How can today’s youth and our readers contribute to orgs like Arpan?
Pooja: Today’s youth and readers can help Arpan most importantly by talking about the issue of child sexual abuse. Each person should talk to atleast 10 friends and relatives about it so that more and more awareness spreads.
Within their college environment or residential society they can organize a talk / awareness session on the issue and we can guide them on how to do so.
They can advocate for this issue in their circles by talking about it and making it an agenda at conferences, forums, newspapers, magazines, television channels, books, every public space.
They can volunteer with Arpan and contribute with their skills and expertise.
They can also donate to Arpan and support he work we are doing. To see more details please click here 

—————————————-Interviewed by Laxmi Khalap Bhatt, Editor, www.naarisakhi.com

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