Creating AIDS awareness

Creating AIDS awareness


Interactive sessions: INSA-India’s trainers discuss public health issues with a village community.

“We believe that every child is our child and are striving to ensure that all children grow in safe and congenial surroundings,” points out Edwina Pereira, Programme Director-Training, International Services Association (INSA-India). This Bangalore-based NGO has been educating adolescents and children about emotional and physical well-being, sexual abuse and HIV prevention for many years. INSA-India is well known for utilising games, puzzles, stories and songs to communicate vital information about physiological and psychological health to children of all ages and their caregivers. 

Established in 1982, with assistance from US based Global Health Action, INSA-India has been working in around 20 Indian states and neighbouring countries. Among the first groups in India to educate college and community youth across urban and rural Karnataka about the dangers of HIV, INSA-India faced resistance and criticism for its initiative as the subject is taboo. Florence David, Program Director-Administration, INSA-India shared, “We started the HIV prevention programme in 1988 with minimal support. However, the good response to our work and the growing AIDS epidemic compelled the government to approve and fund our training modules”. 

The organisation

A unique feature of INSA-India’s programmes is its regular follow-up visits to each of its participants in their own community settings to hand-hold and support the progress of their projects. Also, as a trainer of trainers, the NGO has constantly updated and broad-based programmes for providing in-depth knowledge on HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care, community health and development and child protection.

These are for government and non-governmental organisations from India, Nepal and Bangladesh. 

Through biannual workshops, INSA-India creates and nurtures core groups with star performers selected from its training programmes. It supports them with new information, materials, resources and networks and provides a platform where these community leaders learn from each other’s experience. The first core group member who dates back to June 1982 is still an enthusiastic member of the INSA-India family.   

In 2007, INSA-India launched CAP, its programme on protecting against Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) for children aged 8-12 years in 20 schools in north and eastern Bangalore.

When it offered free of cost awareness and counseling sessions on CSA to schools in Bangalore, one of the institutions' heads responded, “Kids from educated and respectable families are not sexually abused here. Hence, knowing about CSA is unnecessary for Indian children or their caregivers”. However, after realizing her mistake, the same principal invited INSA-India to discuss CSA with students in her school.

According to Selina Dayam, a Programme Officer at INSA-India, the denial of the possibility of CSA is common among Indian adults, especially from middle income households. Dayam stated, “However, CSA occurs at home, in school or their environs. And the perpetrator is often someone the child has faith in”.

A nation-wide study  in 2007 by the Department of Women and Child Development of the Government of India stated that 53.22% of children, including boys, reported one or more forms of sexual abuse. Further, 7.5% of the abusers are ones the child is familiar with or in a position of trust and responsibility.
Through CAP, INSA-India’s experienced Program Officers enlighten kids about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ in a friendly manner without scaring or confusing them.

When required, Dayam and her colleagues Sunanda Nag and Agatha Shekhar provide personal counseling in strict confidentiality. Shekhar disclosed a painful fact, “Children have called us saying that their fathers, landlords or other men are abusing them sexually!” The organisation has also created a ready reckoner on CSA comprising the essential realities of CSA, how to help victims and tell kids about safeguarding their bodies.  

Child at Risk (CAR) Training

“An adolescent is a person who is neither a child nor a complete adult. Therefore, she or he needs special care and support”, Pereira opined. Since 1992, INSA-India has been running a comprehensive health and personality development programme called CAR for teenagers.

In 2008, CAR was relaunched as Jeevan Amulya (JA) or ‘Life is Precious’ in 17 government and aided schools in Bangalore. This programme bridges the information gap on adolescent health and nurtures the entire young individual on interpersonal relationships, body image and gender roles. It prepares the youngster to take  responsibly of his/her life and future while deconstructing myths and eliminating prevalent stereotypes.  

Workshops for teachers to become Friendly Advisors for youth, have strengthened the JA programme and enriched the instructors’ lives too! Balappa Y P, the principal of the BBMP Girls High School in Bharati Nagar and his staff who have attended the Friendly Advisor workshops shared, “The training is very beneficial for us personally and in reaching out to our students”. Shaista and Amreen Farzana, class X students of the same school added, “We enjoy the classes with the ma'am from INSA-India”. JA reaches nearly 2300 adolescents and 30 teachers in Bangalore, annually.  

INSA-India conducts Celebrating Life (HIV prevention), Sanchaya (stigma reduction) and Promoting Adolescent Health sessions for college students and community youth, nationwide. Between 1990 and 2010, these programmes covered 90,883 youth in Karnataka and 83,423 youngsters in 13 other Indian states. 

The NGO is starting Bal Panchayats (Child Parliaments) in 20 neighbourhoods across Bangalore to enlighten kids about their fundamental rights through games and narratives.

“After talking with the INSA-India aunties, I'm asking older children not to bully me or other kids”, revealed Mounesh, an active 12 year old member of the Chinnappa Garden Child Parliament. 

To realise its vision of a “just society living with health and development,” INSA-India networks with other child welfare organisations to advocate for greater government resources for kids and the creation of a comprehensive Child Protection Policy.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)