DANTAK: For 11-year old Anisha, her mother is her security. When asked to depict in drawing what security meant to her, she drew a picture of a little girl holding her mother’s hand.

A class II student from Chapcha, Ajay Lama portrays ‘bad touch’ through his drawing on a balloon where a man touches a girl. “Bad touch is violence,” he said.

These were some depiction of experiences of violence children from Project Dantak camps from Chukha, Paro, and Thimphu. About 170 participants drew at a workshop for child protection that ended yesterday in Thimphu.

Children said that physical abuse is rampant in the camps followed by domestic violence, which is mostly caused by alcoholism. Other crimes that children in those camps indulge in are drug abuse, sexual abuse, and child marriages, among others.

Workshop coordinator and a senior resource person from UNICEF, (Dr) Bharti Sharma, said, “The parents don’t have time and there is not much guidance the parents can give to their children.”

Children in labour camps are more vulnerable to different kinds of violence including sexual abuse because they live in confined spaces.

“Also because both the parents are busy at work and the children are left on their own,” she said.

Sumita, a mother of four said that she usually gets home before dark but sometimes she and her husband reach home at around 11 at night and that is the time she gets worried.

“We usually see boys loitering near our camp rubbing marijuana and it worries me leaving my girls on their own,” she said.

But all she could do is tell her girls to lock the door and remain inside after dark.

In many cases, parents themselves are not much aware of the violence against children taking place, (Dr) Bharti Sharma said.

So some 250 parents interacted on issues related to child protection on the final day of the four-day workshop yesterday.

The parents were informed of how to make their home and the community a safe place for their children.

(Dr) Bharti Sharma said parents need to understand what a child goes through when he or she is exposed to violence. They should identify change in their child’s behavior and use various methods to communicate with the child so that he or she can express herself or himself.

“Saying no to children and disciplining them is not wrong, but abusing and hitting them is not the solution,” (Dr) Bharti Sharma said. “Communicating with your children is very important.”

Dantak has over 5,000 labourers working in different parts of the country.

Dechen Tshomo