Violence against children was identified as a risk as COVID-19 closed schools and put families in lockdown without income and support structures. Early in the pandemic, UNICEF reported a global escalation in child abuse with severe long-term health and economic impacts.
Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Senior Research Fellow Dr Chandré Gould was asked to lead a team sharing parenting information and child protection guidance in sub-Saharan Africa. The team drew on open-source materials developed by Parenting for Lifelong Health (PLH), a partnership including Oxford University, UNICEF, the World Health Organisation, the Global Partnership to End Violence and the World Childhood Foundation.
‘We chose the ISS because we needed a reputable pan-African organisation with experience in positive parenting as a violence-prevention strategy,’ said Project Leader Prof Lucie Cluver at Oxford’s Department of Social Policy and Intervention.
The ISS partnership with PLH and Oxford grows out of a project with the University of Cape Town to assess the impact of four parenting programmes delivered by the Seven Passes Initiative, a community-based organisation in the Western Cape. With ISS support, Seven Passes works in Touwsranten, the only place in the world where all four PLH programmes were delivered at the same time.
‘Dr Gould combines academic rigour with a commitment to collaboration and working with a robust evidence base in grassroots organisations. We are also impressed by the success of the multi-sectoral Violence Prevention Forum. This made the ISS an ideal partner for our child protection advocacy in Africa during the coronavirus crisis,’ Prof Cluver said.
The ISS partnered with communication specialists to reach out to 170 organisations in 11 African countries between August and October 2020, including government departments, civil society, faith-based organisations and companies. Connections were made with teachers, doctors, digital learning platforms, health and education startups, paediatric associations, mobile libraries and community radio stations.
The parenting guidance was based on evidence from projects in Africa, Asia and Europe. It was designed to reduce stress experienced by parents and child caregivers, with a focus on building positive relationships through structured play and management of difficult behaviours. Parents and children were encouraged to talk about COVID-19 and make games out of preventive activity such as handwashing.
‘Violence prevention is a long-term collaborative effort involving all of society, and the ISS partner network in Africa was a powerful tool to bring parenting guidance into homes, schools and communities,’ Dr Gould said. ‘The international evidence, and our own work in communities, shows that childhood experiences influence educational achievement and long-term emotional and economic outcomes for adults. It was important to try and stop the pandemic driving an increase in violence against children.’
The parenting materials were already available in 30 African languages, and the ISS team added translations into Sepedi, Sesotho, isiZulu, Twi and Hausa, which is spoken by 100 million people in at least 12 African countries.
Kenya’s Department of Children’s Services will be using the materials in its new national parenting guidelines. In Zambia, the Safe Motherhood Alliance distributed parenting tips to midwives and thousands of new parents. The office of Namibia’s First Lady distributed materials to frontline care workers and religious leaders.
Two education platforms in Ghana are incorporating parenting principles and activities into their online curricula, and local NGOs distributed content through social media and teacher networks. The information is also contained in a magazine distributed to refugee camps in Rwanda.
Provincial offices of South Africa’s Department of Social Development gave case workers the parenting tips to share with their beneficiaries. The guidelines are also being placed in more than 150 community advice offices and will be broadcast across 18 local radio stations in multiple languages.
Other organisations involved in distributing the material were: Family for Every Child, an organisation with 40 members across 36 countries; the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Kenyan office; the Shukumisa coalition of 70 organisations working against sexual violence in South Africa; the Children in Distress Network that distributed information to more than 200 civil society organisations in KwaZulu-Natal province; and the Violence Prevention Forum in South Africa.
For more information contact:
Chandre Gould, ISS: +27 83 305 4915, [email protected]