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In 2015, Mumbai Smiles Foundation, UNICEF and NINEISMINE partnered to conduct an Opinion Poll project called “Play It Safe” and gathered the opinions of about 5000 children across 8 districts of Maharashtra, in schools, ashramshalas (child care homes), various institutions as well as different communities, on the issue of violence experienced and witnessed by children.

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Play It Safe, as the Opinion Poll has been titled, is an account given by children on how safe they are in their homes, schools, workplaces and communities and so the poll examined the physical, psychological, economic and sexual violence along with neglect faced by the children in Maharashtra. The findings of the same were disseminated through a detailed report, released by the esteemed guests along with children who were part of the project. The report was also formally launched in the Mumbai Smiles office by the Founder and President, Jaume Sanllorente and Unit Head Education, Saroj Parmar.

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It was indeed an opportunity for the children to present their testimony rather point of view to the whole issue of ‘Violence experienced & witnessed by children’. Ms. Rajeshwari Chandrasekar, CFO of Mumbai UNICEF gave the keynote address, in which she emphasised on how PPP (Public, Private Partnership) conversion could play a significant role in taking up the entire issue of the ‘Violence against children’. Brother Steve from NINE IS MINE presented the shocking findings of the ‘Opinion Poll’ which put everyone in the tensed situation as the data presented the existing and growing forms of violence against children in the house and outside as well, including schools, communities etc. Unit Head, Education of Mumbai Smiles, Ms. Saroj Parmar (Sarvoparita) spoke about the modus operandi adopted by the tri-party to carry out the entire opinion poll right from conceptualisation to effective implementation of the initiative. She mentioned that, “In spite of many ups and downs during the implementation, it was worth all the effort after seeing the outcome of the initiative in the form of this report, which will indeed make a big difference in bringing the paradigm shift pertaining to the existing child policy and thereby ensuring a better future for the children.

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It was boggling to know that the children, including the differently-abled, in our state of Maharashtra, are facing brutal violence, in their homes, schools and communities, in form of beatings, objects being pelted at them, burn wounds, and sexual assaults by their own family members/teachers/peers and other forms. An open discussion towards the end of the session provided a platform for the participants to render their opinion or suggestion about the way forward.

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Mumbai Smiles team at the launch event, along with the Girl Child beneficiaries, who were a part of ‘Opinion Poll’ initiative

This report will certainly make a difference in ensuring safer environment for the children in future.

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