Developing contextual responses to the abuse and exploitation of young people

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Working with businesses to protect young people in South East Asia: the ChildSafe model

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This blog was written by James Farley (Friends-International)

Friends-International (AGFund International Prize for Pioneering Human Development 2013; Global Journal Top 100 NGOs 2016) is an international social enterprise focusing on children's empowerment established in Cambodia in 1994.

The ChildSafe Movement is the Friends-International program that works to involve everyone to protect and preserve the rights of children, employing a mix of advocacy, training, community capacity building and referral/response. ChildSafe is currently active in 18 countries and is operationalized through the delivery of activities and interventions (e.g. community training, certification, hotline, campaigns) locally via ChildSafe Implementing Partners.

ChildSafe’s international campaigns, such as the ‘Children Are Not Tourist Attractions’ campaign, reach millions of people globally every year, whilst its national and local campaigns, such as 7 Tips for Citizensraise awareness, change behaviour and protect children in cities and communities across Southeast Asia.

At the community-level ChildSafe Agents (CSA) are individuals and local businesses who are identified, trained, tested and monitored to become volunteers protecting children from all forms of abuse. Agents are the eyes and ears of the ChildSafe Movement. They’re trained to recognize and assess situations of danger for children and to intervene with appropriate actions to protect them. Agents are strategically selected for their likeliness to witness such situations, for instance, street sellers or taxi drivers who are on the streets and in locations identified as presenting a risk. The ChildSafe model is effective in leveraging public and civil society willingness and capacity to contribute to children’s wellbeing and safety, if supported to do so. 9,000 children/youth were directly protected as a result of ChildSafe Agents actions in 2017.

ChildSafe strategies and interventions adapt to local contexts. Whilst ChildSafe taxi drivers in Phnom Penh find that advertising their ChildSafe membership is good for business, CSAs in the commercial sex districts of Bangkok prefer a less visible presence, and in the context of tourist resorts and beaches some of the most active agents are children and young people themselves. Businesses joining the ChildSafe model play a leading role in building a positive community environment for children and young people. ChildSafe Certified companies ensure their business is safe for children and that their staff are aware of local safeguarding issues and confident in responding appropriately.

ChildSafe has been operational since 2005 and continues to grow. The model is currently being developed in Europe through a collaboration with the World Childhood Foundation and the social housing developer Stena Real Estate in Stockholm.The long-term sustainability, vibrancy and effectiveness of these broad networks of street-level child protectors is strongly related to the support and motivation members receive via regular follow up from staff, non-disruptive refresher training and the valuing of their efforts via media coverage, events and promotion of their businesses; as well as the reputation they acquire in their community.

Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility. By explicitly working across the eco-system of schools, local businesses, the voluntary sector, statutory agencies, citizens and children the ChildSafe model offers a proven method for binding together and sustaining active coalitions of local partnerships to strengthen communities’ capacity to keep their children safe.

Email james.farley@friends-international.org to find out more and informally discuss the contribution the ChildSafe model could make in your local area.

Posted: 26 Sep 2018

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