19 February, 2020
Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme / Partner story
Dzimba is a very unique mascot serving an important role in Latvia. Over the past five years, 650 teachers from kindergartens and schools across the country have signed up to be ‘Dzimba Safety Agents’. Using interactive videos, songs, games, and Dzimba inspired hand puppets, more than 6,000 children have been taught about personal boundaries, their bodies, good and bad touch, and how to signal help.
“Adults can teach about road safety, fire safety, water safety, but it can be difficult for us to teach about safety in relationships because we were never taught that growing up” says Agnese Sladzevska, Director of Prevention at Centre Dardedze.
“Dzimba Safety Agents become safe adults in children’s’ lives who talk about concepts that no other adults talk about. They build trust with the children and oftentimes, children feel safe enough to talk about what is going on in their lives to this teacher”.
Dzimba is just one of the many programmes at Centre Dardedze, an organisation with a vision to ensure every child in Latvia is loved, protected, respected and cared for in a safe environment free from all forms of violence. As the only organisation in Latvia specially focused on preventing child sexual abuse, Centre Dardedze plays a really important role in engaging and teaching adults involved in children’s lives – from teachers, social workers and psychologists to parents and families – about how to protect children. Centre Dardeze also teaches children to understand right and wrong behaviour and empowers them to speak up if something isn’t right.
“We try to be creative to find many different ways of reaching children and their families” says Agnese. This includes programmes such as family safety mornings with Dzimba, travelling safety exhibitions open to the public and safety-themed birthday parties at Centre Dardedze. “We believe that it’s important not to just address children but for children to have educated and knowing adults around them wherever they are who understand these concepts and are willing to talk to children about it”.
Centre Dardedze began 20 years ago with a dedicated and enthusiastic team of psychologists, social workers, lawyers and other professionals with a passion for helping children who have been exposed to abuse. Today the organisation has grown to be one of the most influential in Latvia, with a suite of successful programmes that are gaining attention internationally.
“I think one of the success factors has been our prevention programmes that we developed to get the message through to children early enough that they are of value, that their bodies cannot be exploited and that how they feel and what they want matters and they have the right to say no – just really trying to find the best ways to meet children with that important message” says Agnese.
Dzimba, one of the key prevention programmes, currently operates in a third of all kindergartens in Latvia, but will be expanded to reach all pre-schools and kindergartens across the country by 2020. This will make Dzimba the first programme to prevent child sexual abuse to have national coverage in Latvia.
This grant falls under Oak’s Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme which which seeks to build societies where children are never sexually abused. To learn more about Oak’s Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme, read pages 10-17 of our 2018 Annual Report or visit our website. You can also find more about Centre Dardedze here.