Poverty makes children vulnerable to violence and abuse. Children from poor families are more likely to work on the street to help their families, by begging or selling for example. But the street is not a good place for children, and they are at risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. We at Childhood know that trust- worthy adults closest to the child – adults who see, hear and act – offer the best protection against abuse. We also know that a trustworthy adult doesn’t always need to be a parent. They can just as well be an aunt, a teacher – or a tuk-tuk driver.
Volunteers on the street
Based on this idea, we have been working with our partners in Southeast Asia for more than ten years to train local volunteers to detect and report child abuse, or children who are at risk. Street vendors, tuk-tuk drivers, people who run small hotels or bars, and others who are on the streets every day are trained, with Childhood’s help, to become ChildSafe Agents during the course, they learn about children’s rights and how to recognize situations where vulnerable children could be at risk, and what to do to when they see something that does not feel right. This initiative has made the streets of Cambodia and Thailand safer for children.
Be where the perpetrators are
We have been working actively to scale up and spread the ChildSafe model for the past year. One example: Together with local partners, we recruit and train agents in the tourist destination of Pattaya, which is a sex industry hotspot with a high risk of child sexual exploitation. Due to the significant steps taken by authorities and civil society to prevent traveling perpetrators from exploiting children in recent years, many of them have changed their tactics and sought out places where preventative measures have not yet reached. This development. Led to our establishment of ChildSafe Movement in the Philippines in 2019, in partnership with the local tourism department. During the first quarter of 2020, we trained 90 local agents.
Safer beaches in South Africa
Children who disappear, are abandoned or abused on beaches is a problem that our South African partners have been highlighting for a long time. In 2019, we established the ChildSafe model in South Africa to make the country’s beaches safer for children. It was actually our Cambodian project partner M ́Lop Tapangthat conducted the first training course for South African ChildSafe volunteers.
Text: Åsa Andreasson Åkerström, photo: private