Butterflies India

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Butterflies founded by Ms. Rita Panicker is a registered voluntary organisation working with vulnerable children, especially street & working children in Delhi since 1989. With a rights based, participatory, non-institutional approach the organisation endeavours to educate and impart life skills to vulnerable children so that they become self-reliant.

Genesis & Guiding Principles[edit]

The idea behind Butterflies began in the 1980s, when Ms.Rita Panicker Pinto began interacting with children living on the streets & platforms of Mumbai. She noticed that these children were extremely vulnerable. She took action. Rita along with Asst. Professor P. Nangia did a Situational Analysis of Study of Street and Working Children in Delhi for UNICEF in 1988. It was the first study on the subject on the country. It gave her an insight into their lives, why they are on the streets. Her interest deepened. Soon her vision began to take shape and she decided to work with this group of children.

Thus was born Butterflies with the core value and belief that it must be a democratic organisation and children’s voices have to be listened to seriously. Children’s participation in decision making processes is central to Butterflies’ work ethos. It is non institutional in its approach as Butterflies believes that institutionalising children should be the last resort. The importance of strengthening families and communities to protect and take care of children is strongly advocated as families are the first line of defense for children. Butterflies’ emphasis is on supporting children to continue schooling, impart life skills education so that they can exit the cycle of generational poverty & illiteracy.

Since its humble beginnings in 1989, Butterflies has grown into a movement with 140 staff reaching out to almost 3,300 children every year and has touched the lives of almost 71,000 children till date. Even as they grow in numbers, the Butterflies story still centres around protecting & empowering every street & working child in India.


Over the years Butterflies has initiated a number of innovative interventions in the field and partnered with various government and non-government agencies to garner support for children. The main programmes are Education, Children’s Development Khazana (life skills programme teaching financial management), Child Health Cooperative (CHC), Children’s Media (Butterflies Broadcasting Children), Resilience Centre & Childline (1098, 24-hour helpline for children in crisis), Night Shelters for homeless children, vocational training (Butterflies School of Culinary & Catering and Computer Education), Chakhle Dilli catering service, Advocacy & Research Centre (ARC), Alliance Building, Right to Play and Child Social Protection Committee Programme. In the year 2009, on a request by the Delhi High Court, Butterflies also ran a programme for children in conflict with law in an Observation Home for Boys in New Delhi. Butterflies reaches out directly to over 3,300 street and street connected children in Delhi and Uttarakhand. Butterflies is also a member of Family for Every Child, a global alliance of local civil society organisations working together to improve the lives of vulnerable children around the world.

Butterflies flagship programme is the Children’s Development Khazana (CDK), a life skills education programme that educates children on democratic values and financial management (educating children on importance of budgeting, saving and prioritizing needs). Founded in 2001, CDK is a cooperative managed and owned by children and as of March 2018, CDK is operational in eight countries across the world and in nine states of India with a total membership of 16,912 children (8,981 boys & 7,923 girls) and savings amounting to $ 82,061. All the money is saved in mainstream banks.

Since 1995, Butterflies has also been running the Child Health Co-operative, for street children where they discuss their health problems and chalk out strategies to combat health problems.The cooperative is based on the principle that children can collectively advocate for services. One of the key objectives of CHC is to promote safe and healthy living among children and communities. As of March 2018, CHC is operational in eight countries across the world and in ten states of India with a total membership of 9,354 children (4,984 boys & 4,370 girls).


Butterflies reaches out directly to over 3,300 street and working children in Delhi and Uttarakhand. Through the Children’s Cooperatives Programmes (CDK & CHC), Butterflies is also present in eight countries (Afghanistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Madagascar and Ghana) and ten states & Union Territories of India (Jammu & Kashmir, West Bengal, Kerala, Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Maharashtra).

The organisation’s core belief is children have a right to be heard, to be consulted, to take their views seriously in all decisions that concern them. In keeping with this core value Butterflies facilitated a children’s forum in Delhi called Delhi Child Rights Club in 1998 which has children from 13 NGOs as its members. DCRC has commented on various government policies and legislations related to children; the very recent being the draft national policy on children. DCRC has taken up the issue of right to play with the Mayors & Chief Minister of Delhi to get access to play grounds and open spaces for children to play.

In addition, Butterflies has facilitated and is the convenor of National Alliance of Grassroots NGOs for Protection of Child Rights (NAGN), an alliance of 39 grassroots community based organizations from 13 states. Butterflies has also facilitated and is the convenor of South Asian Alliance of Grassroots NGOs (SAAGN) having 136 members from the region. The reason for coming together as an alliance was for the voices of small grassroots organisations to be heard and for Butterflies to lobby for the rights of the most marginalized communities. Best practices are also shared among alliance members who are constantly learning and finding ways to be creative and innovative in their functioning.

Butterflies is also a member of Family for Every Child, a global alliance of local civil society organisations working together to improve the lives of vulnerable children around the world. Ms. Rita Panicker, Executive Director, Butterflies is currently the Vice-Chair of the Board.

Awards & Recognition[edit]

  • Ms.Rita Panicker was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award 2016 by the National Association of Professional Social Workers in India for her distinct contribution in the domain of child rights, especially street & working children at the 4th Indian Social Work Congress.
  • Rita Panicker honoured by Shri Amitabh Bachan in the new Star Plus show Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi - 2015
  • 'Vanitha Woman of the Year 2013' by the Malayala Manorama group. Award instituted to acknowledge the work done by Malayali women to serve our society
  • "IGSSS Shrestha Puruskar,2011", by the Indo Global Social Service Society in New Delhi for pioneering work in bringing significant changes in the lives of street and working children.
  • Nominated in 2009 for the "Right Livelihood Award" and was one of the finalists for the award.
  • Zee Pehal Pioneering Personalities L. N. Goel Award in 2006.
  • "Women of Social Work Excellence" by Manava Seva Dharmasamvardhani Charitable Trust for Social Service Consciousness, Chennai, on 27 February 2002.
  • Children’s Development Khazana started by Butterflies in 2001 received the Second Prize in the 2006 Global Development Network Award for the Most Innovative Development Project. This award is given to the institution whose ongoing project embodies a fresh approach to an important development need and holds the greatest promise for benefiting the poor in developing and transition countries. Criteria include the degree of innovation and the potential for broad application of the project in other countries.
  • The Ramachandran - Ikeda Award 1999 was conferred on Butterflies in appreciation of their work in education, healthcare and recreation of street and working children. The award was conferred on Butterflies for following Gandhian philosophy of education i.e. schools should be living school where children are taught life skills education, to respect work especially those who work with their hands and to respect and accept all irrespective of language, religion or caste.

External links[edit]