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PREVENTING CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
There are an estimated 250 million child-workers around the world. This equals the population of France, Germany, the UK and Spain.
Mahima came down from the highlands in Nepal at the age of 12 to work in Kathmandu as a domestic worker. She worked for six years in a house where she suffered sexual abuse.
“At first he said I was like his granddaughter. Later that old man started to behave badly towards me. His wife had already died... initially I was confused about what he was doing, later on I realised he was doing all bad things and when I asked him to stop he said ‘who are you to stop me in my home?’.”
− Mahima, child domestic worker
“I was scared of telling this to anyone,” she said, “as it might be my own fault and also my schooling may stop because I may have to leave the house.”
As well as domestic work, children are employed in many different industries all around the world. Indeed, there are an estimated 250 million child workers globally – they work in sweatshops, mines, rubbish dumps, in private households and on the streets. Child labour is especially common in developing countries, where it is seen as a cheap option for burgeoning economies and households. Often, children from poor rural families want to work – they see moving to the city as an opportunity to attend school and contribute to household earnings. Indeed, the option of going to school is used as a bartering tool to lure children from their country villages, where there are fewer opportunities. However in reality, the promise is often broken. “I was promised I would be sent to school when I was brought here,” said an 11-year-old girl working as a domestic worker in Kathmandu. “Later when I asked them [employers] about when I would be admitted to school they kept on saying tomorrow, tomorrow. But later I was told I would never be sent to school and I was beaten for asking.”
Frequently, once children arrive at their destinations, their dreams and expectations of a better life turn to dust. Studies reveal many stories of long hours of backbreaking, dull or repetitive work for low or no pay. There are no laws in place to protect them in the countries where they work and child workers are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment – they can even be treated as bonded labourers or slaves. The work that they are offered is badly paid and in many situations the possibility to progress in terms of their education is denied to them, unavailable, or the schooling is of poor quality.
In addition, child workers are highly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. As street vendors or peddlers, they work late into the evenings trying to sell their wares, including in late-night bars and restaurants. They commonly experience sexual harassment and girls in particular are at a high risk of sexual violence and abuse. “I used to sell boiled maize on the street when I was about 12 years old,” explained 23-year-old Selamawit from Ethiopia. “Of course, street business involved risks. I met bigger boys who harassed me sexually.”
When it comes to domestic workers, there are few ways of seeing what goes on behind the closed doors of private households, and perpetrators take advantage of this fact. Sadly, stories such as Mahima’s above are all too common, showing clearly how vulnerable these children are to sexual exploitation. A 2005 survey from Children and Women in Social Services and Human Rights (CWISH) revealed that, in Nepal, a shocking 56 per cent of domestic workers have suffered sexual abuse, with 28 per cent experiencing sexual assault. According to Annabel Erulkar of the Population Council in Ethiopia, 72 per cent of child domestic workers in a Tanzanian study reported physical abuse and 13 per cent reported sexual exploitation. Furthermore, in a study of girls in three Ethiopian cities, domestic workers were twice as likely to have experienced unwanted sex compared to non-domestic workers.
This is in part due to passivity and social tolerance towards the matter. Kate McAlpine of the Caucus for Children’s Rights in Arusha, Tanzania explained, “In general, it’s not considered bizarre that the head of the household would have sexual relations with the maid. Children who are involved in domestic work are particularly vulnerable to suffering in silence.”
In addition, domestic work is a recognised pathway to sexual exploitation. “A Tanzanian study has found that 25 per cent of adult sex-workers were formerly domestic workers,” said Annabel Erulkar. In addition, she explained how, of 2,000 adult commercial sex-workers in Ethiopia, some 44 per cent had previously been domestic workers.
“25 per cent of adult sex-workers were formerly domestic workers. Domestic work is so exploitative that, sometimes, sex-work is considered a better option.”
− Annabel Erulkar, Population Council
The link between sexual abuse and sexual exploitation has long been clear. These children need to be protected.
While Oak aims for the complete eradication of child sex abuse and exploitation, until this becomes a reality, it is supporting initiatives that strengthen children to develop resilience in the face of adversity.
The Oak-initiated Bamboo research project was carried out in Nepal, Bulgaria and Ethiopia to learn from children what nurtures resilience. It found that children are not passive and submissive in the face of adversity. Often they are resilient; they know where and how to find support, usually from the people around them, and they actively seek it out. For example, Werkalem, a young woman in Ethiopia, explained how she decided to move out and live with a friend when her step-brother tried repeatedly to abuse her.
“He used to come to the place where I slept and take off the blanket. After this happened three or four times, I left the house, as I thought that he might destroy my life. [Now] I am not exposed to sexual attack.”
- Werkalem, Ethiopia
Children talked of avoiding the abuser or seeking out safe places such as a terrace (where people can see them), and they also spoke about trying to get help by either telling another child or an adult. For example, Samjhana, aged 16, based in Kathmandu, said, “That old man [employer], he came to my room at night and pulled off my blankets and asked me to go to his room... so I screamed and he locked me in the room for two days... after I went down to the neighbour and told him everything and he said if he does it again, tell it to us and we’ll call the police.”
It is clear from these examples that children try to get themselves out of abusive situations as best as they can. Nonetheless, it is imperative that children’s capacities are supported. Strong laws that protect the rights and dignity of child domestic workers need to be enacted in all countries, along with increased access to education, another basic right. Both informal and formal child protection mechanisms need support.
Community-level endeavours will help raise awareness among domestic workers, linking them up and strengthening them as a group. For example, after-school programmes will provide a safe place for children to make friends, reducing their isolation and strengthening their resilience in the face of abuse and exploitation.
Oak Foundation supports organisations that prevent the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. This includes child domestic workers, migrating children and children leaving institutions.
Here are two examples of the work carried out by Oak’s partners:
The Population Council works to empower girls to protect themselves and to have a say in their own lives. Currently it is carrying out research in low-income areas in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to identify the drivers of sexual exploitation and the factors that open the door into this type of exploitation. This information will be used to engage with governments to increase the protection of child domestic workers, block the path to the sexual exploitation of child domestic workers and to provide real economic alternatives.
Based in Kathmandu, Nepal, Children and Women in Social Services and Human Rights (CWISH) works for the benefit of sexually abused and exploited children as well as those being exploited for labour as child domestic workers. Oak grantee Children Unite has partnered with CWISH on the Bamboo Project (previously mentioned) to explore resilience among child domestic workers.
The Bamboo Project research has led to a review of the participant programmes. For example, CWISH now organises “child clubs” around the city, which are after-school programmes geared towards allowing children to play, make friends and build bonds with each other. This cuts the isolation factor, strengthens children in the face of adversity and makes them less vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
The photographsillustrate children around the world with the right to be safe. Every child should live free from sexual exploitation and violence.
© Rachel McKee Oak Foundation
Oak Foundation Annual Report
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WHY WORK WITH MEN AND BOYS?
Research shows that a father's Involvement in children’s upbringing often results in improvements in children’s educational performance.
Hailu is a father of three living in the northern city of Bahir Dar in Ethiopia. During a discussion on fatherhood and what it means to be a father, he opened up about his own experiences. “One thing I remember about my father is that he provided for his family and made sure that all our needs were met,” he said. “My father was a hardworking farmer and he wanted to make sure that his children have a better future. He raised us up to be respectable and was proud of our achievements.”
However, sadly, Hailu is not able to remember any warm moments with his father where he felt connected with him.
“My father was always emotionally distant. I would like to have a close relationship with my children starting from a young age, but I find it hard to relate to my children as I do not really know how to do it.”
-Hailu Father, Ethiopia
In many societies around the world, being a man is often equated with strength, dominance, discipline and being the breadwinner. There is a limited focus on men’s involvement in the day-to-day care of children or being connected to them. Social expectations of what it means to be a man and how a father relates to his children, or fails to do so, can have far-reaching consequences on children, both positive and negative.
A number of studies show the benefits of male involvement in parenting. There is increasing evidence that in contexts where men have little engagement in child-rearing, increasing their involvement as parents leads to a change in men’s behaviour and attitudes more generally. Research shows that fathers’ involvement in children’s upbringing often results in improvements in children’s educational performance. In addition, children are less likely to be violent or to become pregnant when teenagers. Their self- esteem grows and they have healthier relationships with the opposite sex.
Like Hailu, mentioned above, fathers in many communities around the world are increasingly showing a desire to be less distant and more involved in their children’s lives. However, they often lack the confidence or the skills to engage with children, especially when they are young.
It’s an art to be a father
Oak Foundation is funding programmes in several countries that aim to increase fathers’ confidence. Here are two examples:
A study conducted by Center Dardedze in Latvia in 2014 showed that men do not consider themselves as equal partners to women in parenting and raising children but rather as assistants to mothers. However, more than two- thirds of the fathers involved in the study admitted they want to spend more time with their children and develop non-violent skills to discipline their children. Interestingly, the fathers mentioned their partners as the main barrier to being more closely engaged with their children. Despite the increasing number of men who are interested in becoming more active in their children’s lives, there are still many men and women who believe that a man’s role is to earn an income for the family and that a woman’s role is to care for the children.
Based on the findings from the research in Latvia, Centre Dardedze and its partners developed a national media campaign entitled “It’s an art to be a father”, aimed at supporting men’s care giving and parenting roles. The campaign is currently implemented through television, radio, electronic media and the press and is estimated to have been viewed by about 82 per cent of the Latvian population.
In Uganda, the Responsible, Engaged and Loving (REAL) Fathers project, implemented by the Georgetown University Institute of Reproductive Health and Save the Children, brought fathers together to participate in regular mentoring sessions. The fathers began to spend more time with their children, laughing, playing and enjoying them and their children showed less fear toward them. Despite these benefits, this behaviour change among the men was often criticised by family members, peers and neighbours.
Often, when the men took on more care giving responsibilities in the household, they were ridiculed by their peers and in-laws and referred to as being “ruled over by the wife” or “becoming more of a woman and less of a man”. While some men chose to ignore these pressures, others found it difficult and reverted to their usual ways of relating to their children by keeping distance and becoming less involved. One father in Uganda expressed the neighbour’s reaction to his actions: “My neighbours were stunned seeing an adult man play with a child; I was being booed down but I ignored them. Spending time with my child is very important to me and I cherish it all the time.”
Supporting fathers to be dads
Families, communities and governments need to reinforce the idea that fathers have a key role in raising children and also support fathers to play their role in full. In many countries around the world, policies tend to reinforce the perception of fathers as income earners with limited days available when a child is born. Providing paternity leave for fathers is one way in which governments can support men to get involved in care- giving early on, and also help challenge the societal view that men do not need to be around during and after the birth of their children.
According to the State of the World’s Fathers report, “92 countries offer leave that can be taken by new fathers”, but millions working in the informal economy and on temporary contracts do not benefit from these leave arrangements. In addition, for those entitled to parental leave, the leave is less than three weeks in half of these 92 countries. This denies millions of children the benefits of building a relationship with their fathers from an early age.
Involving men in violence prevention
Globally, about one in ten girls under the age of 20 have experienced forced intercourse or other sexual acts, and one in three adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners. Statistics repeatedly show that a large proportion of sexual violence against children is perpetrated by men. This does not mean that the vast majority of men are sexually abusing children nor supporting this action. However, while many men find these acts horrific, they rarely speak out against it.
Men and boys make up half of the population and play a significant role in shaping societal beliefs and views in private and public spaces. Men hold influential positions in society such as in business, the government, community and the media. They have a strong voice in shaping local and national discourse in the development and implementation of policies, in challenging social norms and perceptions towards children and in influencing decision-making both privately and in public.
Preventing the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children requires the active involvement of men, boys, women and girls. To break the cycle of violence across generations, men and boys need to be mobilised and supported to develop gender-equitable attitudes; take part in non-violent parenting; and be positive role models for the younger generation.
Through a group of partners in Switzerland, the Child Abuse Programme is supporting work that targets parents, young people (including army recruits) and school-aged children to develop positive gender attitudes and to challenge the socially accepted norm of violence against children. For example, manner.ch promotes gender equality through the “MenCare” programme in Switzerland; Fondation Santé Sexuelle Suisse promotes gender equality by teaching comprehensive sexuality education in schools and through an awareness and prevention campaign for young recruits in military training centres. In addition, the Association Education Familiale is strengthening the skills of early childhood professionals and parents of small children in sexuality education as a means to address and promote gender equality in childhood.
Oak Foundation’s Child Abuse Programme recognises men and boys as strong allies to address all forms of violence against children. It believes that engaging men more deliberately and consciously will help create non- violent and safe environments for children. Indeed, any vision of a world where children can develop a healthy sense of belonging, form positive and trusting relationships and grow in a safe and empowering environment must consider the place and role of both fathers and men.
The photographs have been provided by our partners and illustrate the importance of the role that fathers play in the lives of their children.
© Peter Vulchev / MenCare Bulgaria
Oak Foundation Annual Report
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RED CARD FOR THE SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN AT MEGA-SPORTING EVENTS
Oak supports organisations in raising awareness on child sexual exploitation during and around mega-sporting events.
World Cup frenzy gripped the globe in 2014 and all eyes turned to Brazil during the summer months. Soccer mania reached frantic heights and some 600,000 soccer fans descended upon the country to join in the festivities.
Research has shown that children are exposed to many risks before, during and after mega-sporting events. “Oak has been aware of the risks and opportunities associated with mega-sporting events for many years,” said Florence Bruce, Director of the Child Abuse Programme at Oak Foundation. Risks include sexual exploitation, the displacement of children and their families and child labour.
Oak supports its partners to advocate for change in the bidding criteria of mega-sporting events. They do this by: developing an evidence-base for the impact mega-sporting events have on children; supporting constituencies to lobby for change; and communicating their findings.
Many non-governmental organisations and churches used the occasion of the World Cup in Brazil to raise awareness of the heightened risk of child sexual exploitation in, and around, mega-sporting events. Oak supported Terre des Hommes International Federation to document, through a series of short films, risks and benefits for children around the World Cup. Oak also supported World Childhood Foundation (Childhood Brasil) to engage with public organisations, civil society organisations and the private sector in preventing the sexual exploitation of children and teenagers.
Oak believes in the importance of harnessing events like the World Cup to build awareness around, and call for the eradication of, child sexual exploitation. To this end, Oak has also supported:
Nobody’s Children Foundation during the EURO 2012 Football Cup to raise awareness of child prostitution;
Brunel University to research child exploitation in and around the FIFA World Cup; and
Sonke Gender Justice, which ran media campaigns in South Africa during the World Cup in 2010 emphasising the gravity of the sexual exploitation of children.
The photograph have been provided by our partners and illustrate children around the world with the right to be safe. Every child should live free from sexual exploitation and violence.
© Neil Brandt / Firework Media
Oak Foundation Annual Report
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CELEBRATING 15 YEARS OF DEINSTITUTIONALISATION IN BULGARIA
Oak Foundation’s partner Roditeli Association has been working in collaboration with Bulgarian not-for-profit organisations to promote positive models of male caregiving in parenting. This work is built on the MenCare campaign, which works to inspire men, their families and their communities to support men’s caregiving in the protection of children against abuse, including sexual abuse.
Virginia Ruan, head of communications for Oak Foundation and David Kiuranov, project coordinator for the Roditeli Association interviewed the children in the photos in this section of the Annual Report. The children and their fathers had participated in a Father’s Week Programme at their school, organised by the Roditeli Association. For the photo shoot, the children shared an object that represented what family meant to them. You can read about their objects in the photo slide show.
The Berlin wall fell in 1989. This historical moment marked the end of the Soviet Union and the communist era, and the beginning of a largescale move towards a capitalist system in Bulgaria and elsewhere. The transition to a market economy meant widespread disruption to daily life. Changes took place on all levels of society and they deeply affected everyone across the eastern bloc. People struggled to manage financially and poverty was commonplace.
The ramifications of these changes are still felt to this day in various ways, and their impact will probably live on forever in people’s memories. For instance, many will recall harrowing images of children in institutional care in Eastern Europe during the 1990s and at the beginning of this century. Often, institutions were the only social safety net available for families who were struggling to provide for their children.
“Sadly, it was often the children who bore the worst consequences of the transition. Many were sent into those institutions – some were even abandoned by their parents.”
-Tanya Kovacheva, Programme Officer, Child Abuse Programme, Bulgaria
Studies have shown that institutional care has a negative impact on the wellbeing of children. “There is a wealth of evidence that shows that children suffer tremendously – developmentally, cognitively, emotionally and behaviourally growing up in these soulless facilities,” says Delia Pop, director of programmes and global advocacy for Hope and Homes for Children.
As awareness of what was happening to children in institutions grew, many people across Eastern and Western Europe tried to help. Parents reached out offering to adopt children into their own families to give them a better chance in life. In addition, donors began funding work, in particular in Romania, at first to improve the institutions and eventually to empty them and close them down.
At the end of 2001, there were 12,609 children living in 165 institutions in Bulgaria. Although work to support children in institutions was well underway in Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe, the problem had not yet been addressed in Bulgaria.
There were vested interests in keeping the institutions going – they were sources of employment at a time when jobs were scarce, and they provided some sort of a solution for families in difficult circumstances. There were also very few organisations with experience in transforming the child welfare system, including promoting familybased care over outdated institutions.
In short, they were seen as a way of life. For these and other reasons, there were few funders supporting deinstitutionalisation initiatives in Bulgaria.
In addition, it is well known in the child abuse sector that children living in and transitioning out of care are more at risk of child sexual abuse and exploitation. It was essentially this that pushed Oak to begin funding this issue. In 2001, Florence Bruce was the director of Oak’s Child Abuse Programme. “It used to be said that if you can work in Bulgaria, you can work anywhere,” she said. “It was really tough ground. So, Oak took up this challenge.”
The Child Abuse Programme team began investigating how Oak could best reach out and support as many children in institutions as possible. Florence and the team visited Bulgaria in 2001, looking to find people working in the child sector who Oak could partner with. “At first, we couldn’t get into the institutions of course,” said Florence. “But some Bulgarian not-for-profit organisations finally managed to get us into one. Then, we saw it for ourselves – these large soulless institutions for children were indeed wastelands – there were no gardens, no beauty, no flowers, nothing. It was terrible for the children growing up in them.” That same year, Oak started supporting projects in Bulgaria. In 2002, grant- making developed to support small scale projects that included: child helplines at local levels; prevention work in schools and communities; and work with street children. At the time there was a state-wide dependency on institutions – it seemed impossible to close them down. Nevertheless, the work gained momentum. People, organisations
and donors joined efforts.
Oak’s portfolio gradually grew to include:
The work of Oak’s partners in Bulgaria has born rich fruit. Perhaps the greatest reward for their various efforts came in 2010, when the Bulgarian Government announced it would close down all institutions by 2025. The Government is currently on track to achieving this goal – in December 2016, there were only 1,059 children in institutional care in the country, a huge drop from the figure of 12,609 some 15 years earlier.3 Many children have returned to their families or have been placed in foster care.
Today, Oak is celebrating more than 15 years of supporting partners in Bulgaria and the huge successes that have been achieved. Our partners have played an instrumental role in: transforming social work practice; strengthening support to children and families; preventing all forms of violence against children; building and translating evidence into action; and building the capacity of partners and networks.
“Every child deserves to grow up in a loving home,” says CAP director Brigette De Lay. “Fifteen years after our first grant in Bulgaria, we know that thousands of children have been, and will be, spared the harm of institutional care. We know this is the result of the tireless leadership and determination of our partners. We feel privileged to have been part of their efforts through our grant-making.”
Every child should live free from sexual exploitation and violence.
© Virginia Ruan / Oak Foundation
Oak Foundation Annual Report
Year of publication:
Safeguarding Children Policy
Grantee Perception Reports
Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.