MUMBAI, (GNI): Childrens of Mumbai who decided to raise their voice against the menace and assert their right for a clean, tobacco-free and healthier environment, in Mumbai – photo by Sumant Gajinkar
MUMBAI, (GNI): Tobacco is the bane that has affected the lives of many since years. The battle against it continues to rage on. But this time, it was the children of Mumbai who decided to raise their voice against the menace and assert their right for a clean, tobacco-free and healthier environment.
As the city celebrated Children’s Day with much fervour, these children who belonged to various schools in the city found their own way to ask for a better world by demanding a surrounding which is free of tobacco wrappers, bidis, cigarettes etc. They also chose an impactful medium to put across their thoughts. Each child came up with creative and highly innovative messages through posters and drawings that spoke about a tobacco-free world. The best of these art forms were chosen and their creators were felicitated jointly by Dr Mustaq Sheikh, Education Inspector, North Zone, Bollywood singer Nikhita Gandhi and NGO Salaam Bombay Foundation at a special function on November 23.
The drawing competition, held as part of Children’s Week celebrations, was a brainchild of Dr Sheikh who has taken it upon himself to address the menace of tobacco in government schools. Dr Sheikh had recently joined hands with Salaam Bombay Foundation to sensitise school teachers and staff under his jurisdiction to raise awareness in their respective schools. Their collective results bore fruit and today 517 schools in the North zone of Mumbai are actively running the Tobacco-free school campaign. Gandhi has been associated with Salaam Bombay Foundation who have been actively engaged in tobacco control in schools across Mumbai since the past 14 years. Also present on the occasion were 500 student representatives of the North zone schools.
A recent survey conducted by the Prince Aly Khan Hospital, Mazgaon, in association with the Manipal University, has revealed that one in every four students (25 per cent) between the ages of 10 and 19 in the city’s schools is addicted to smoking and other tobacco products. Experts say that adolescents are most vulnerable to start tobacco use; most adult tobacco users start the habit in childhood or adolescence. Youngsters today are getting increasingly attracted to cigarettes and gutkha which are known causes of oral cancer. Dr Sheikh and Salaam Bombay Foundation decided to involve schools in the campaign because schools are in an extremely powerful position to play a major role in reducing the serious problem of tobacco use by children.
The drawing competition that revolved around the theme ‘Tambakhu Mukht Shala, Swachh Shala’ looked at spreading the message of the need for a healthier environment for children. The campaign was a great success because the children themselves were motivated and felt the need for a tobacco-free environment.
Gandhi, a dentist by profession, has been supporting Salaam Bombay Foundation’s mission to help children stay in school and empowering them with life-skills. She said,“On recent encounters with Salaam Bombay Foundation I have found their work and mission to be quite amazing and I am looking forward to a meaningful association. I am also a dentist by education and would love to use my skill and perspective in helping these children. This joint project by Dr Sheikh and Salaam Bombay Foundation is indeed commendable. The children have expressed the message so beautifully and yet strongly in their drawings!”
Echoing her thoughts Tshering Bhutia, General Manager (Tobacco Control) Salaam Bombay Foundation said, “We are extremely happy to see the enthusiasm of the Education Department in offering the children a healthier and tobacco-free environment. We are also very impressed with the way the children have expressed their thoughts through posters and drawings. We would like to thank Nikhita Gandhi too for supporting our cause and showing her eagerness to interact with our children.”
Dr Sheikh said, “I feel that every child has the right to enjoy childhood and have a proper education. But when tobacco abuse comes in their way, these rights are taken away from the children. A good way to keep them away from tobacco abuse is by sensitising them. Our aim is to give them a tobacco free environment and develop a culture of good health among them. I thank Salaam Bombay Foundation for supporting me in my endeavour.”
About Salaam Bombay Foundation:
UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF UNDERPRIVILEGED CHILDREN THROUGH INNOVATIVE EDUCATION
Salaam Bombay Foundation started in 2002 to work with children in Mumbai’s slums. These children live in extreme poverty and in “at risk” environments. They drop out of school facing the risk of child labour and substance abuse, tobacco use in particular. Given these ground realities, Salaam Bombay Foundation (SBF) has harnessed the ability of alternate, innovative education tools to teach team work, discipline, respect and the coping skills necessary to ensure that children develop into well rounded personalities and are able to meet the challenges they face and take leadership roles within their communities. Our in-school programme develops strong leadership and advocacy skills in children and enables them to say “no” to tobacco while campaigning for their right to a tobacco-free environment. Over 50,000 Salaam Bombay children in Mumbai city alone and over 14 million children across six states in India are change agents at school and in their communities. Our after-school academies and skill-development initiatives focus on teaching children vital life and work skills so they can stay in school, contribute to their families, refuse tobacco and other drug use, and grow their worth and identities as capable, confident leaders and citizens. Ends