Women and children at risk of being exploited

Children in our care celebrating Republic Day (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children's Village Hojai is located on the outskirts of the small town of the same name. Hojai is situated in the Nagaon district in the state of Assam in north-east India. The population of Assam is ethnically mixed, and clashes between the different groups happen frequently.

The city of Hojai is an important producer of consumer goods and an emerging centre for information technology. In the surrounding areas, agriculture plays an important role: rice, sugar-cane, mustard and vegetables are grown.

The north-east of India has not been as economically successful as other parts of the country, and reports suggest that the state of Assam is amongst the poorest. According to some estimates poverty has actually increased in recent years.

Poverty is particularly high in rural areas, where most inhabitants are involved in agriculture. The people living in these rural areas have poor access to basic infrastructure (such as sanitation facilities and clean drinking water) and to adequate health care.

Women and children are the first to suffer the consequences of the high unemployment and poverty levels and the political unrest. Many struggle to survive, finding it hard to scrape together a living. Children are often not sent to school because their parents cannot afford it; instead they have to work in order to raise the family income.

Human trafficking is a problem in the area, as people fall for the false promises of traffickers. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to abuse due to their weak position in society. They often end up working as commercial sex workers or under exploitative conditions as domestic workers.

Supporting those in need

SOS Children's Villages works closely with local agencies to identify families who are in need and then provide them with the support they require in order to improve their lives. Furthermore we provide children who can no longer live with their families with family-based care, run a kindergarten and programmes for young people to prepare them for adult life.

What we do in Hojai

Women from our family strengthening programme learning to knit (photo: SOS archives).
A central part of the work that SOS Children's Villages carries out in Hojai is related to supporting local children and families. Our family strengthening programme offers a comprehensive package of services to enable families to stay together and take good care of their children. We aim to raise awareness of hygiene, children's rights and positive parenting skills. We provide families with food, as well as educational support and medical treatment. In order for parents to generate income, we offer them vocational training, career counselling and advice on how to look for a job. For example, we have trained women in tailoring, food processing and animal husbandry. Awareness-raising workshops, on subjects such as HIV/AIDS or women's legal rights are organised on a regular basis.

When children can no longer stay with their families, they can find a loving home with one of the 20 SOS families, where they grow up with their sisters and brothers. The children attend the local schools thus making friends with children from neighbouring families and integrating into the community. The children are involved in after-school activities such as learning how to play a musical instrument or doing sports. When needed, the SOS Kindergarten can also provide day care for young children.

When the young adults are ready to leave their SOS families they can join our SOS Youth Programmes in Sibsagar, Nagaon and Hojai itself. With the support of qualified professionals they are guided through this new stage of their lives, as they start vocational training courses, attend higher education and look for work. The young people are encouraged to develop perspectives for their future, learn to shoulder responsibility and increasingly make their own decisions.