Publication Date
March 1, 2013

"These case studies illustrate how UNICEF support is helping countries to strengthen child protection system and promote social change to align social norms and practices with child protection.”

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has provided nine case studies as evidence of results from diverse child protection initiatives, including:

  • "Improving access to legal aid, counselling and basic services for children in conflict with the law in Afghanistan;
  • Raising rates of birth registration in Brazil by partnering with hospitals and using technology; 
  • Empowering adolescents in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through discussion groups, resulting in community engagement in combatting sexual violence;
  • Reducing corporal punishment in Jordan’s schools and encouraging teachers to adopt non-violent disciplinary methods;
  • Offering prevention, referral and protection services for children at risk of or suffering from violence, exploitation, abuse or neglect in Kenya;
  • Supporting community collaboration to curtail female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in Senegal;
  • Developing child-friendly police units to handle child victims and perpetrators of criminal activity in the Sudan;
  • Strengthening child protection systems in Indonesia and Malawi."

They come from the following nine countries, (summarised here with some communication elements included):

  • Afghanistan, where the juvenile code states that "children in conflict with the law should be detained only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible time period". UNICEF's Social Inquiry Report (SIR), a screening tool, provides information that aids in connecting children to legal aid, counselling services, and referral to basic social services. Training for capacity building has also been supported by UNICEF, as well as working with community members and juvenile justice professionals and assessing community mechanisms to facilitate implementation of alternatives to detention.
  • Brazil, where there was a need to overcome low birth registration rates due to geographic isolation, lack of awareness of the benefits of registration, and discrimination against minorities. UNICEF worked on: legislation to eliminate fees and allow indigenous birth registration; a campaign including celebrity messages and slogans, such as "I have a name and a last name, I am part of the Brazilian family"; incentives to hospitals to register each birth; initiation of birth registration messaging into National Baby Week campaigning; an award of the Approved Municipality Seal where progress has been tracked on high performance on birth registration; and an online registration process for hospitals, including public engagement through awareness raising among indigenous groups in local languages and among fathers through a "Be Your Child's Hero" campaign.
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo, where girls are at risk of sexual violence and exploitation as well as early marriage. UNICEF introduced child-friendly spaces for children displaced by conflict with community staff who provide structured activities and access to psychosocial support to deal with violence and abuse. UNICEF work included capacity building for staff and redesign of activities to improve quality and gender sensitivity. Discussion groups for girls and for boys in local languages with trained facilitators work to change harmful beliefs and practices and empower participants to become agents of change in their communities by identifying and helping to put in place protection mechanisms such as community patrols, emergency contacts, and referral mechanisms. According to UNICEF, the result was the empowerment of young people and increase in their knowledge of services, including sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention and treatment, among other community services. Pilot programmes led to a scale up to support children in up-surging violent conflicts.
  • Indonesia, where forced sex work and child marriage, as well as detention and institutionalisation affects large numbers of children. UNICEF is supporting development of a holistic framework for a systematic approach to child protection, from policy shifting to capacity building. "With UNICEF support, efforts are now under way to move towards a community-based system of care emphasizing family support." UNICEF aims to support skill development in frontline workers to help communities identify solutions, including influencing social norms and behaviours.
  • Jordan, where verbal and physical abuse by adults affects children. The Ma’An (Together) Towards a Safe School campaign works to make teachers, students, and families aware of rights and responsibilities and offers then a four-step discipline process that excludes corporal punishment. Survey questionnaires to students monitor progress. Three times a year, a three-week media campaign is organised on radio, television, newspaper, social media, and the Ma’An website. School counsellors and parent and teacher groups use interpersonal communication training and approaches for advocacy of these new methods of discipline. Community and religious leaders have been mobilised to promote the goals of zero tolerance of violence, and a national dialogue is occurring ,on the most appropriate approach to positive discipline, including a participatory approach to establishing classroom rules.
  • Kenya, where child neglect is the greatest case burden of social services and sex tourism puts children at risk. UNICEF has helped with establishing child protection centres (CPCs) as 'one-stop shops’ offer counselling and referral for various services, including medical care and legal support, including a free and confidential telephone helpline encouraging people to report abuse. The centres involve police, social workers, magistrates, and legal advocate organisations and manage cases that include children from neighbouring countries, in various languages, including sign language. "The CPC’s awareness-raising objective is to educate children, parents and communities so that a protective network is formed among all the people children encounter in their daily lives - including families, teachers, health care workers, religious leaders, neighbours and shopkeepers."
  • Malawi, where there is a need for demand from families and communities for a child protection system. "Building such a system requires the engagement of everyone in government and civil society, not just a few groups concerned about specific aspects of child well-being." According to UNICEF, through such activities as participatory mapping, the issue of child protection is being raised to the centre of national concern.
  • Senegal, where efforts to end FGM/C had long been stymied by traditional beliefs. "The Government of Senegal, UNICEF and the non-governmental organization Tostan [see Related Summaries below] have supported implementation of the Community Empowerment Programme (CEP), a non-formal education programme based on the promotion of human rights." Efforts include community meetings and radio programes in local dialects for collective discussion and intergenerational exchange, including on a movement calling for abandonment of the practice in thousands of communities. After a 30-month CEP process, communities decide whether to commit to abandoning the practice.
  • The Sudan, where conflict has led to the need of young children to seek employment and to their increased vulnerability to abuse, including corporal punishment and sexual abuse. UNICEF has supported police to establish family and child protection units (FCPUs) in police stations (including inviting training from the Jordanian police), providing the supplies and equipment and supported training for the police officers on child-friendly procedures. They now provide medical care, counselling, and access to dedicated investigators and prosecutors for children and families. UNICEF is working with social workers and policy makers to establish “community conferencing as the default method of dealing with children accused of crimes except in serious cases such as those involving murder or rape."