In Central and South East Europe
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Advancing participatory work with children and young people affected by sexual violence

2017-12-27

Worldwide, millions of children and young people experience sexual violence during their lives. Rape, sexual harassment, sexting, pornography, trafficking, early marriage are a few examples of sexual violence that happens to children everywhere, in all communities. Participation of children and young people can prevent sexual violence from happening and strengthen those affected. However, doing participatory work remains a challenges, especially with a view to avoid re-traumatising young people.

To support professionals that engage in participatory work with children and young people affected by sexual violence and to empower young people, Terre des hommes Romania and Tdh Regional Office for South East Europe took part in a 2-year project led by the International Centre (IC): Researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking at the University of Bedfordshire (UK).

Life skills, Leadership and Limitless Potential (LEAP) – “Against sexual violence” – Supporting children and young people affected by sexual violence in Europe by strengthening and facilitating participatory practice project ended in November 2017 with a remarkable number of results and products that are free to use by any interested professional. Besides Romania, the project was delivered in three countries: the United Kingdom (IC, Barnardos SECOS), Bulgaria (PULSE Foundation), and the Netherlands (Stichting Alexander). We worked in association with EuroChild, and received funding from the European Commission, with co-funding from Oak Foundation.

Around 100 professionals were trained to confidently use participatory approaches to support young people affected by sexual violence. Teachers, youth workers, doctors, social workers, psychologists, and other professionals of specialized services engaged in a 4-day training programme that offered a range of tools and materials, and fostered exchange and connections among participants. The programme was also transformed into a free e-learning course that you may take on the childhub.org platform (you need to register).

Following the training, in every country, a community of practice for professionals was established, in order to facilitate the exchange of promising practices and improvement of knowledge in participatory techniques and methods. Here you can download a guide on developing communities of practice. We also recommend reading the ethical guidance on children and young people’s participation for services who are working with children and young people affected by sexual violence.

Young people were actively involved along all the activities of the project: in every country they were trained as co-facilitators who co-delivered a leadership and life skills programme to a group of other young people. You can download the step-by-step guidance and methodological notes for a 3-day youth facilitator training and 12-session life skills and leadership programme for young people who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing sexual violence. To further learn about the nature and scope of life skills and leadership training for vulnerable children and young people, take a look at our literature review.

As part of the life skills and leadership programme, children and youth developed their own creative projects and products aimed at fighting sexual violence, and shared these with the wider public in order to raise awareness. On www.leap-openminds.ro you may discovered the results of the Romanian team. There you may also find the LEAP Journal (in Romanian) which is a tool for young people who want to express themselves, discover what it means to participate and how to protect themselves from any form of violence, including sexual violence.

During the youth-led event “Together, we participate and change”, the creative products were presented to teenagers from different high schools from Bucharest and other parts of the country. “It was a beautiful and informative event that tackled an important subject. It was a special event that highlighted how brave are children!” mentioned Cristina Vladescu, the project coordinator from Romania.

The final workshop in Romania brought together 35 professionals – members of the Community of Practice and other child protection, and the young facilitators involved in the project. “This participative model of intervention should be applied in as many as possible schools and the creative products of young people will be very useful as educational tools and counselling,” said a participant.  

Discover more of the project’s results in this E-Magazine and page on ChildHub. “I hope our learning project goes far beyond our countries,” concludes Judit Németh-Almasi, Deputy Head of Tdh Regional Office.