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Scaling up the prevention of child sexual abuse

Prevent Child Sexual Abuse Programme / Partner story

Photo credit: Shutterstock 

It our collective responsibility to care for the wellbeing and safety of our children by investing in solutions to prevent child sexual abuse. Oak’s partners are finding solutions to prevent child sexual abuse that can be applied and used on a global scale. 

Child sexual abuse has no borders or boundaries. It can happen anywhere. Survey data shows that globally 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 13 boys have been sexually abused or exploited before reaching the age of 18.1 The vast majority have been abused by someone they already know in familiar settings. 

Our partners are engaged in proven, ground-breaking programmes that help keep children safe and are widely applicable worldwide. In this year’s Annual Report, we are proud to shine a light on some of the scalable innovations of our partners. ‘Scaling up’ means translating local efforts into language and practices that can be widely adopted and maintained over time. 

With their creativity and commitment, our partners show that it is possible to prevent child sexual abuse globally. Ultimately, action and hope can be accessible to everyone. This is the focus of this year’s story. 

No Means No Worldwide 

While children themselves cannot and should not be held responsible for their own safety, endowing them with a sense of their own agency is crucial for their wellbeing – and for the fight against sexual abuse. To this end, Oak’s partner No Means No Worldwide (NMNW) has created a training programme for adolescents proven to combat sexual violence in multiple countries. 

NMNW trains local mentors, who deliver the ‘No Means No’ curricula to adolescents in high-risk environments. Girls learn assertiveness-training, boundary setting, and physical and verbal skills to defend themselves. Boys learn more equitable views on gender and sexuality, plus how to avoid violence, ask for consent, and intervene when they witness a sexual assault.  

There have been impressive results so far. In communities where ‘No Means No’ has been implemented, incidences of rape have significantly decreased.2 Forty-three percent of girls who have taken ‘No Means No’ have used their skills to stop a sexual assault the year after training.3 Boys have had a 79 per cent success rate when intervening to prevent a sexual assault.4 “Girls no longer feel shy and scared,” says Scovia, a No Means No’s mentor in Uganda. 

The success of this programme is also scalable. NMNW has been able to expand its work globally by training trusted and capable local agencies to administer the curriculum themselves. As well as operating in eight sub-Saharan African countries, it now has over 50 partners worldwide. This has enabled NMNW to oversee, evaluate, and support its partners on a vast scale. 

Global parenting initiative 

When families are in crisis, the risk of child sexual abuse increases.5 But thanks to another Oak partner, the Global Parenting Initiative (GPI), parents in crisis have someplace to turn. GPI has built a worldwide network to help parents reduce violence in their households. So now, if a mother in Kuala Lumpur feels overwhelmed, she can join a GPI support group for parents on WhatsApp. A father in Soweto can open GPI’s ParentApp on his smartphone for tips about how to nurture his kids. Parents in at-risk situations can receive guidance and interventions instantly. 

The power and efficacy of the GPI network were on full display during the Covid-19 pandemic. As household violence escalated alongside the restrictions, GPI developed a user-friendly digital App that gave parents access to proven strategies for: managing stress; caring for children during a crisis; and protecting children from online abuse. Accessed by some 198 countries and 210 million people worldwide, the ‘Covid-19 Playful Parenting Emergency Response’ established a scalable model for reaching and helping families everywhere. 

GPI has also scaled up by partnering with governments, multilateral organisations (e.g., UNICEF) and local agencies to deliver its services. Most outstandingly, GPI has created an independent funding and social enterprise arm that will allow it to remain financially sustainable over the long term. GPI intends to provide parenting support to 25.7 million families by 2026 – and to reach 250 million children by 2030. 

Centre Dardedze 

In Latvia, our partner Centre Dardedze has prevented child sexual abuse by teaching young school children through a programme that is adoptable on a wide scale. It has achieved this through ‘Džimba’ – a curriculum that helps young school children learn about personal safety issues in an engaging and exciting way. Children learn that their bodies belong exclusively to them, the difference between good and bad touching, and how to distinguish between good and bad secrets. 

Centre Dardedze has been delivering Džimba to kindergartens for 15 years, by training individual preschool teachers, psychologists, and other specialists to become personal safety teachers in their own schools. The programme is now being delivered to 60 per cent of kindergartens in Latvia, reaching over 10,000 children. 

Centre Dardedze is also enlisting partners – in this case school districts and municipalities – to help implement the curriculum on a broader scale. Like GPI, Centre Dardedze has created a social enterprise to help secure long-term funding for its work. Its curriculum, partnerships, and sustainability mechanisms are all models for scaling up. 

If you would like to see a video about the work of Centre Dardedze, please check out the online version of this report on our website. 

Sugira Muryango 

Research shows that responsive and nurturing parents create more protective and less violent environments for their children. To this end, Rwanda’s Sugira Muryango aims to help parents of young children become better caregivers. 

Sugira Muryango’s intervention is conducted in-person by trained, community-based coaches over a series of home visiting sessions that engage parents and children. The active coaching, play-based programme builds families’ capacity to cope with daily stressors, avoid violence, and adopt healthier, research-informed parenting and early childhood development practices. 

Studies6 find that the risk of child sexual abuse is increased in families who hold traditional patriarchal norms. Sugira Muryango intentionally engages fathers in active caregiving as a way to address gender norms and reduce violence. In one successful example, a father in the programme shared: “I learned something very important from Sugira Muryango – and that is how to set an example for my children.” 

Sugira Muryango has been proven to reduce child abuse, while increasing child welfare and male caregiver engagement.7 What’s more, the programme is a model of scalability. The Sugira Muryango team has worked closely with the Rwandan Government to integrate the programme into the fabric of the country’s social protection and child protection services. By collaborating with local, regional, and national partners, a wide array of stakeholders are part of the implementation, decision-making, and quality improvement processes, resulting in high levels of local ownership and buy-in. 

To date, Sugira Muryango has empowered nearly 10,000 families with effective and culturally appropriate parenting, early childhood development, and violence reduction strategies. The programme is poised to greatly increase its reach to thousands of additional families across Rwanda. In its scalability, it offers up the hope and proof that one day, all children can thrive in safety, free from the threat of sexual violence. 

This grant falls under Oak’s Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (PCSA) programme, and within that our priority funding area of innovative research and promising solutions, that supports efforts to build the evidence base for effective and scalable solutions. You can learn more about No Means No Worldwide here, Centre Dardedze here, the Global Parenting Initiative here, and Sugira Muryango here.

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