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Crusader in fight for child rights
Bijli Mallik

She was all of 22 years old when she joined the NGO, founded by her professor in 1972, as a volunteer. Thirty years later, Bijli Mallik, assistant director of the Institute of Psychological and Educational Research (IPER), is still very much a dedicated volunteer with the organisation working for children’s rights.

“I always loved children and wanted to work with them. So when my professor started IPER, it provided me with the right opportunity. I roped in a few friends and together we signed up as volunteer members, teaching and counselling ‘normal’ and handicapped kids, coming up with teaching materials and tools, and doing psycho-socio assessments of children, so that we could categorise them and then address their individual problems,” she explains.

“Two sisters learning and growing together” is how the 53-year-old smilingly describes her relationship with the NGO that she can “never think of leaving”. From her college days, the post-graduate student of education from Calcutta University has maintained the same routine — classes in the mornings, IPER in the afternoons and evenings. First as a student, later as a lecturer.

The head of the education department of Rammohan Roy College has initiated and participated in projects like child labour, research on “families on edge” and its effect on the children, exploitation of and violence against kids and a child protection programme called child watch. A study on the traumatic consequences of man-made and natural disasters on youngsters resulted in a training manual for care-givers, social workers, teachers and parents, and subsequent workshops at IPER’s Prince Anwar Shah Road centre.

The mother of a daughter has a soft spot for the “little victims, particularly girls”. The reason for her tireless efforts: “I have had a happy childhood, and I want to do my bit to improve that of the less fortunate,” Mallik states.

And the rewards are “more than satisfactory”. “Occasionally, I run across one of my former IPER students, who has a job or has just graduated from college. Sometimes, one of the youngsters who came to us with severe behavioural problems comes first or second in class. That makes it all worthwhile. Everyone doesn’t finish school, but in the past decade, of around 10,000 students who passed through here, about 500 to 600 have finished school,” she says.

Working with the kids, most of whom are usually unable to defend themselves, is what gets Mallik going, and something she “can’t imagine ever not doing”. “But it would not have been possible without the help of my equally dedicated colleagues and the steady support of my family. And for that I am thankful,” she sums up.

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