AB is implementing a project, ‘The Empowerment of Children Victims of Sexual Abuse and Exploitation’ in Dhaka and Chittagong cities. AB’s child focused approach developed a partnership with children victims of sexual abuse and exploitation (CVSAEs) that would see them as central actors in the project. Direct help for CVSAEs included education, workshops, counseling and skills development/vocational training delivered through a 24-hour Drop in Centre (DIC). Support also included access to a range of alternative employment options. The children are the main stakeholders in developing appropriate responses to their needs. The project raised awareness of commercial sexual exploitation of children, and networked with local organisations to rehabilitate and reintegrate child victims. The project continues to have a positive, empowering psycho-social impact with CVSAE, by developing their active participation, learning and advocacy in combating the CSEC. Children are able to make real choices about their future, demonstrating to themselves and their peers that they can work to end their social exclusion and marginalisation. They are more literate and numerate and demonstrate a greater understanding of their health, and how it can be best looked after. They learn how to deal with difficult and violent situations, where to go and what to do if they fall ill or need advice. They develop confidence in their capacity to take control of their lives, and to regain pride in themselves and status in the community. They take responsibility for decision making and are nurtured through a process from powerlessness to empowerment. They work with communities, institutions, professionals etc who regard them as citizens, and they learn to value their contribution. They also witness a programme of community sensitisation, and learn to put their experiences into a context of discrimination, thus freeing themselves from blame and shame.
Outcome 1: To provide support and a safety net to meet children’s basic needs A variety of developmental and protection services will be offered to the street CVSAE to be able to rehabilitate them back into society and fulfill their potential. 2,000 street CVSAE will directly benefit from a safe space and the support services offered by the two 24-hr Drop-in Centres (DIC). Their basic needs will met, such as food, basic healthcare, clothes, formal and non-formal education, life skills education, counselling, recreation and sport. The skills that the CSEAC will learn will allow the children to gain knowledge and become self-reliant.Street children will experience respect and fair treatment from their peers and adults as a start to improving their self-esteem.
They will also receive help to start living a life where their right to privacy (UNCRC Article 16), protection from harm or abuse (A19), healthcare, water and food (A24), a good standard of living (A27), and education (A28) are met, while they are also protected from dangerous forms of work (A32), drugs (A33), sexual abuse (A34), and abduction (A35). The counselling and case management provided by trained staff at the DICs help those children who have suffered abuse and trauma and are finding it difficult to adjust. These children are helped through individual and group motivation sessions which are conducted to raise the children’s self esteem and to make them aware of social norms and values and as to their duties as responsible members of society. The life skills development classes provide training to help the CVSAE equip themselves with the necessary skills required to deal effectively with the stresses and pressures of everyday life. The children will then develop a core set of skills on decision-making, critical thinking, effective communication, interpersonal relationship skills, coping with emotions and stressors.
The DICs will allow the CVSAE the space to not only access basic services, but to also experience elements of childhood that they would not have previously had the chance to experience, such as, drama & art classes, picnics, outings, sports tournaments, cultural shows, visits to national places of interest and historical importance. The partaking in recreational activities is a fundamental right of children (UNCRC Article 13) and is an extremely important factor for the healthy mental and physical development of a child. One of the main concerns of the project is what will happen in the long-term to the children involved. Therefore, an extremely vital component of the project is to enable the child to be ready to leave the DIC and be reintegrated back with their family or into society living independently. AB staff will trace and visit the parents or guardians of these children to assess whether it is possible, and appropriate, for the child to return home or if not appropriate, what may be done in terms of collective living, i.e. if the child has found reputable suitable employment, is there a possibility of finding a suitable shared and affordable accommodation with other children as a long-term solution.
There will also be a 6-month follow-up programme which will ensure that AB staff will continue to support and monitor those children who have left the project to make sure that they have fully adjusted back into their family or society. This will also allow the project to review its strategies and approaches to adopt any necessary changes in the future.
Outcome 2: To strengthen the capacities of CSEAC to enable them to make informed decisions about their lives & to better their own circumstances Children’s participation - one of the main ways that the capacity of the children will be increased is by involving them in every stage of the design, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the project.
This is carried out by the Joint Management Committees (JMCs) which includes both AB staff and the CSEAC beneficiaries of the projects. The JMCs meet monthly to discuss any issues or problems that may arise during the running of the project. The board of the JMC comprises of elected individuals and any major decisions regarding the project will taken via a voting poll at the JMC. The monitoring and evaluation of the project will also be carried out via the JMCs.
Another very successful approach to building the capacity of these children is by training them as peer supporters and setting up peer support schemes. 40 children in the 1st year will be trained in basic counselling, mentoring and listening skills allowing them to support other CVSAE. Continuous training will be developed incrementally with another 20 CSEAC being trained in the 2nd year to ensure sustainability of the scheme.
A further 40 CVSAE will be trained in lobbying and advocacy techniques in the 1st year to increase their capacity to influence local bodies in terms of awareness, prevention, protection and rehabilitation of CVSAE. They will be able to apply their new skills by planning and conducting campaigns to raise awareness and lobby for policy change. Professionally supervised by experts and with the help of strong links built with the media, these children will conduct national campaigns in Year 2 & 3 which will potentially reach and impact on the lives of whole populations of children at risk. Vocational training - age appropriate children attending the programme will have access to vocational/skills training through in-house skills development training courses and partner NGOs facilities. The programme will provide 6 months skills development training courses on trades such as tailoring & embroidery, candle making, screen printing, paper bag making.
The children will learn a marketable skill that will give them opportunity to have an alternative method of employment and leave sex work permanently. AB staff will negotiate with local employers for apprenticeships and job placements for those children that have completed the 6-month training course. They will ensure that the employers understand the situation of the CVSAE, the job, that the working environment and duration are non-hazardous and that the children are paid fair wages. Beauty Parlour and Business Centres – the idea of establishing these business centres as an alternative employment opportunity was suggested by the children via the JMC. From the 1st phase of the project, the flower stall and IT centre have proved to be very successful. Other suggestions for future ventures have been: beauty parlour, PC repair. The children will be trained in management, accounting and customer care relations. AB staff will provide ongoing support.
Outcome 3: Sensitise local communities & institutions Awareness campaigns to highlight the dangers faced by CVSAE, HIV/AIDS prevention and the rights of these children will be carried out via presentations, focus group discussions and special events such as the cultural programme enacted by the children themselves, singing, dancing and reciting their own poetry.
The local communities will be mobilised by targeting them through meetings and discussions with groups like local women’s groups, market/trade groups. Links will be established with local police stations to refer CVSAEs to the DICs if they are taken into custody. An ‘Action Group’ will be established from among the immediate community i.e. the people who directly interact with the children, to be responsible to prevent child abuse & exploitation within their own respective communities. The project will also train around 40 community, religious, youth club leaders & NGOs & local government officials in child welfare issues.
Due to their circumstances, CVSAE often come into contact with the law. The project will promote legislative reform and the improvement of law enforcement mechanisms; and provide legal aid and support to those children arrested.