India: UNODC initiative focuses on empowering families to protect young people from drugs and crime

Guwahati, Assam/23 February 2024: Research has consistently underscored the pivotal role of families in either safeguarding or endangering the development of children and adolescents. Understanding this, focusing on family skills emerges as a critical strategy in preventing young individuals from falling into drug abuse, criminal activities, and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

In this direction, UNODC, along with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE), Government of India and the Departments of Social Justice in Assam and Manipur, conducted a three-day training for 39 government representatives, social workers, teachers, psychologists, and community leaders from Assam and Manipur. The training equipped participants with knowledge and skills to effectively empower families and protect young people from the dangers of drugs and crime.

Mr. Ali Yassine, UNODC's lead trainer for the Prevention, Treatment, Rehabilitation, and Social Reintegration (PTRS) program, spearheaded the training sessions. His expertise and guidance laid the foundation for a comprehensive understanding of the role families play in the prevention of drug use among children and adolescents.

Through interactive workshops and discussions, participants delved into the dynamics of family structures, the impact of positive and negative parenting styles, and the ways in which families can act as both protective shields and risk factors.

Ms. Radhika Chakrabarty, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India emphasized the pivotal role of families in drug prevention from early childhood. She highlighted how families can serve as a protective factor, shielding young individuals from the dangers of substance abuse. Conversely, negative parenting styles and stressful family environments can lead adolescents down a path of drug use and vulnerability. This recognition of the family's central role in prevention is a cornerstone of the program's approach.

Mr. Virendra Mittal, Commissioner and Secretary of the Assam Social Justice Department, along with UNODC South Asia's Criminal Justice Expert Ms. Seema Joshi Arya, shared invaluable insights during the training sessions. Their contributions shed light on the local context, challenges faced by families, and practical strategies to strengthen family skills in preventing drug abuse and associated risks.

Evidence-based parenting and family skills training programmes have been found to be highly effective in preventing negative social outcomes including substance use among children and adolescents.

These programmes offer skill-building for parents on monitoring and supervision of children's activities, communication as well as setting age-appropriate limits. These programmes improve family functioning and bonding, organization, communication and interpersonal relationships.

The activity contributed to SDG 3, SDG 5, SDG 16 and SDG 17: