An Indian NGO is installing touchscreen kiosks across the country which vulnerable children can use to ask for help.
Childline was established with the goal of helping children in need. Children used to be able to contact the organization’s 24-hour helpline, launched in 1996, by dialing the toll-free number “1098” on a pay phone. But the widespread adoption of cellphones in India has meant pay phones are quickly becoming extinct. This leaves the at-risk homeless children the organization wants to help with fewer options to reach out.
“Until 10 years ago, four out of 10 calls were from street children themselves. Now, marginalized children hardly ever call—it’s others calling to say they’ve seen a child begging or mistreated,” Nishit Kumar, the head of communication and strategic initiatives at Childline, told Reuters this week.
The kiosks will be placed in train stations in major cities throughout India in the next six months, Kumar told Reuters. They are about four feet tall, resemble airport check-in kiosks, and prompt the user to call Childline or submit details about the issue they would like to report.
Human trafficking is prevalent throughout South Asia and on the rise, despite the efforts of anti-trafficking groups. A Guardian report last year estimated that around 135,000 children are trafficked in India annually. Many are transported by train, with more than 4,000 trafficked children rescued by The Indian Railway in each of the past three years, according to official data reported by Reuters.
Earlier this month, South Asian nations agreed to collaborate on initiatives including a toll-free helpline to help combat trafficking.
Childline receives government support from the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development, and partners with 700 organizations in over 366 cities and towns in India to stop these crimes, according to its website.
The organization says it has fielded over 36 million calls since its emergency helpline was launched, helping children escape dangerous situations including sex trafficking rings and abusive shelters.