Children First

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Children First: Addressing Gender Based Violence from the bottom-up 

About the Project 

This project was set up to tackle dating violence in its early stage by educating children attending school accordingly. Therefore, the main objective of the project is to tackle gender-based violence in relationships through combating stereotypes and norms fueling dating violence. The main vehicle utilized for this project will be the formal education system, trying both to build the necessary capacities of teachers and educators and also to introduce children to this approach through a gamified environment.

It has a user-led approach, since the project will be actually steered by a Youth Advisory Board, staffed by members of the target group. At the same time, Children First capitalises on ICT technologies, offering an innovative e-game for children with an educational character. Moreover, Children First launches a pioneer initiative in terms of developing a tailored capacity building programme for teachers & educators for a field which hasn’t been covered by the competent educational authorities in all countries involved. It should be also mentioned that Children First brings together educational institutional authorities with NGOs active in the field of combatting gender-based violence, which is something new when it comes to gender-based violence prevention programmes in the formal educational system. Finally, Children First will raise awareness and inform children and youth through youth-led campaigns in all participating countries, maximising thus their penetration rate and impact

Specifically we will achieve our goals by:

a) Developing a comprehensive training programme (face to face and online) for school teachers and creating a pool of trained trainers accredited with a CPD status;

b) Developing and piloting a web-based game for children, challenging gender norms and stereotypes;

c) Designing and implementing an awareness raising and sensitization campaign.

Children First has two primary and two secondary target groups. The first primary target group consists of education professionals in formal and informal settings. This includes teachers, youth workers and other educators in public, private and voluntary organisations. In short, these are the professionals who come in direct contact with children and have a role and a responsibility to provide them with the right educational paths and tools.  In the UK, a recent report of the UK Women and Equalities Committee’s on sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools provides a rather concerning picture. According to evidence gathered: “sexual harassment and abuse of girls being accepted as part of daily life; The report evidences that schools are currently failing to adequately respond to and prevent incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence in the school environment. Many schools are also failing to support students experiencing these issues outside of school. Further more teachers have raised the issue of poor guidance in this area as contributing to the problem. 

 

Expected results 

> Increased awareness of prejudices and gender stereotypes and norms that contribute to the tolerance of gender-based dating violence through the e-game (for children), the training programme (for educators) and the communication campaign (for all other groups)

> Change in attitudes and behaviour as regards the issue of gender-based violence among general population and particular groups, e.g. relevant professionals, vulnerable groups, etc, through the communication campaign (for the general population), the e-game (for vulnerable children) and the training programme (for education professionals)

> Improved child-centred and/or gendered responses to victims/witnesses of domestic violence, including through strengthened cooperation and coordination between and capacity-building for, among others, law enforcement and child protection professionals through the training programme for educational professionals and the multidisciplinary seminars & international network

>Reduced risk of gender-based violence and violence against children because of the impact of the e-game and the developed capacities of teachers & educators 

Why is this project important?  

Children First was constructed having in mind a current and urgent European need of addressing gender-based violence among children focusing on dating violence.

This is understood as violence perpetuated by children whilst dating and prior to becoming adolescents and forming long-term relationships. It is violence that may or may not come to the attention of criminal justice agents or dealt through formal public structures. It is defined as violence that has serious and long lasting impact as this is identified by its victims and may include physical, emotional or psychological consequences.

The evidence on dating violence amongst children is now slowly growing pointing to an urgent need for action at the policy and practice levels (Debarbieux & Blaya, 2001; Smith, Pepler, & Rigby, 2004; Steffgen & Ewen, 2004). School-related violence involves youth on youth and adult on youth violence that can take various forms including sexual assault, sexual abuse, stalking and teen dating violence. UNESCO has pointed out that partner violence in early adolescence also found in the literature as “dating violence”, has only now started to draw attention across Europe. Dating violence and other forms of school related gender based violence take place within a context of existing social norms and gender inequities. Attitudes and cultural ideas about male & female sexuality and roles dictate certain forms of “gender scripting” which underlie and help perpetuate gender-based violence. Young people almost unconsciously adopt stereotypical behaviours, preferences and attitudes that are considered widely appropriate for one’s sex. Masculinity that equates with strength and aggressiveness should be showcased through sexual conquests or displays of physical violence. (Bannon and Correia 2006). Girls on the other side can adopt submissive cues and passivity to adhere to their gender norms. The numbers of children affected by dating violence is not to be underestimated (Jiwani 2005). However, although there is yet insufficient data on the risk factors related to intersectionality between gender identity, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, disability and class and their link to intimate dating violence, it is widely accepted that marginalised youth face higher risk to become victims of any forms of school-related gender based violence including dating violence.  Further, examination of the current national and international research as well as the review of a number of EU-funded and national projects including the findings of: the Daphne funded “Youth4Youth” programme support our claims. In drafting this proposal we also based our evidence on the Coordinator’s recently completed Erasmus+ project “Abused No More” Safeguarding Youth and Empowering Professionals and our Comic Relief funded “Gender and Empowerment” projects. Both of them focused on GBV and Children First is complementary to these initiatives which are both comple. 

Children First has been put together to respond to these needs while also creating a bottom up evidence base that will allow a better buy-in of its outputs. Having conducted a scoping exercise for this proposal, we concluded that educational tools in the field of GBV in schools follow traditional methods of teaching while they lack the user-led element (see for instance, EU Daphne funded Youth4Youth” programme). Therefore, there is a need for the development and mainstreaming of programmes that are aimed at: 1. Encouraging and activating the creativity and imagination of children through the use of modern ICT technologies offering them the opportunity to be part of the development process of such tools rather that the recipient of a message produced by an external source; 2. Building the knowledge, skills and capacity of educators to identify risks, prevent and safeguard their young people that may be at risk of youth on youth violence.