Addressing the sexual exploitation of children threatens to snow under it

This article appeared in de Volkskrant on May 21, 2022.

With the pandemic finally coming to an end after more than two years, the world is riven by many other crises. Worldwide, one to two million children remain victims of sexual exploitation. Trouble looks like it’s snowing. This is while children have become more vulnerable due to the Corona crisis. The system that’s supposed to protect him has taken a huge hit, in part because of the schools during that closures It was closed. The consequences are becoming increasingly visible.

The Down to Zero coalition is tackling the sexual exploitation of children in 12 countries in Latin America and Asia. During a pandemic, and especially in its aftermath. Tackling sexual exploitation of children, such as exploitation in the street, in a brothel, or online in front of a webcam, is complex. Down to Zero focuses on youth participation and the child protection system.

Trusted Kids Network is gone. To protect them from sexual exploitation, a broad approach is needed: Down to Zero supports children, their parents and their community. Among other things, the Alliance focuses on engaging young people themselves as youth advocates and lobbying regional, national and international governments and the business community.

Read here about Down to Zero at school in Nepal

Young advocates work together against sexual exploitation in the Dominican Republic.

Better knowledge of sexual exploitation

For example, caregivers are trained in specific knowledge and skills. “These workshops are essential for people who work with vulnerable children, so that they can give them the best care,” says Monique Demenint of Terre des Hommes. Think, for example, about how you handle children’s traumas, such as not constantly asking them to tell their story again. It could shock them.”

It is important that children themselves are also aware of their rights and can stand up for themselves, themselves and for each other That is why children receive information about recognizing signs of exploitation, children’s rights and sexual health. For example, they learn which authorities to turn to if they are victims or at risk, so that they can receive psychological, medical and legal help.

Rescuers during training
Aid workers receive trauma training in Thailand.

Youth advocates at the head of the leadership

An essential part of the program are young people who have been trained to become youth advocates, such as 26-year-old Carlos from the Dominican Republic. “I want children to know their rights, and to know that no one should touch them or mistreat them inappropriately.”

Carlos plays a leadership role in his community and is an active member of the local network of volunteers dedicated to informing and protecting children and youth. Comes up with new ideas and uses knowledge from Down to Zero courses. “I learned a lot. I can apply that in conversations with the authorities and pass it on to the young people who live here.”

I want children to know their rights

Children run around him with Carlos. Like a mentor, he has constant conversations with them. I tell the children all about their rights and about the risks of exploitation. Sometimes they can’t talk about it at home because it’s taboo – then they come to me.” Prevention is necessary to stop sexual exploitation of children. This starts with children, because they are an important link in transmitting information. Carlos will now train children and young people in schools.” That everyone learn more about this so that they can stand up for themselves.”

Carlos on a motorbike
Carlos (26 years old) is an advocate for youth and a role model in his community.

down to zero

Down to Zero is a collaboration between Terre des Hommes, Plan International, Defense for Children-ECPAT, Free a Girl, ICCO (part of Cordaid), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Down to Zero aims to protect children and young people from the dangers of sexual exploitation in twelve countries in Asia (India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand) and in Latin America (Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, Brazil, Dominican Republic). The Alliance empowers children and youth to stand up for their rights and helps communities protect their children from sexual exploitation. We also promote better government policy and work hand in hand with the business community, such as the travel and tourism industry.

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