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SVRI has a long history of work on child sexual violence (CSV), driven by the recognition that despite its high prevalence, CSV remains one of the least understood and researched forms of interpersonal violence – and the evidence gaps on what works to prevent and respond to CSV are greatest in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). To ensure we use limited resources for CSV research most effectively, the SVRI undertook a series of consultations with the field, asking where we can best add value to building evidence to strengthen work on child sexual violence in LMICs. These discussions revealed SVRI’s potential to promote, support, and strengthen capacity for research on child sexual violence in LMICs, and influence the agendas of researchers, practitioners, policymakers and funders working on both violence against women and violence against children. And so, with support from the Oak Foundation, the SVRI has begun to deepen our CSV work.

CSV Research: Strengthening capacity wish list

To guide our research capacity strengthening work, the SVRI asked our members what was on their CSV research capacity strengthening wish list. The survey was sent out via the SVRI Update and social media platforms in September 2023 and left open for three weeks. We received 234 responses from researchers, practitioners, service providers and program implementers spread across 51 countries globally, most of whom (79%) were based in LMICs.  More than two thirds (67%) of respondents work in preventing and responding violence against children (VAC), while the rest (33%) work on violence against women (VAW) and LGBTQ+, as demonstrated in Figure 1.

 

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What is the field interested in?

The survey presented respondents with an opportunity to pick their top two research capacity strengthening areas out of six topics: 1) ethics and safeguarding in child sexual violence research; 2) participatory research and meaningful engagement of children, adolescents, survivors, and communities in child sexual violence research; 3) child sexual violence research methods; 4) intervention research; 5) policy and legislation research; and 6) dissemination and research uptake/research for policy making.

Out of the six topics, participatory research and meaningful involvement of children, adolescents, survivors, and communities in researching child sexual violence emerged as the foremost area for capacity strengthening, chosen by 54% of respondents. Additionally, 25% of participants identified it as their second priority. This indicates a substantial interest, as approximately three-quarters of the survey participants are interested in enhancing their capacity in conducting participatory, meaningful, and ethical research on child sexual violence. Their preferences for sub-topics, listed in order of interest, include:

  1. Survivor-centred CSV research
  2. Adolescent and youth-led research
  3. Enhancing ownership of data and decision-making by communities
  4. How to involve young people without overburdening them
  5. Participatory methods such as photo-voice

In addition to identifying CSV research capacity strengthening needs, the survey sought to understand the utilization of SVRI resources and knowledge products, including online SVRI courses that members have signed up for and completed. Additionally, we inquired about the preferred language for translating our Measuring Violence against Children: From Concept to Action Online Course, with 70% of respondents opting for French and 30% choosing Spanish.

Using the survey results

The survey results present us with an exciting opportunity to integrate participatory CSV research in our work in 2024 and beyond, and we have lined up several initiatives with several partners to achieve this. These include designing an online CSV course on participatory research integrating the sub-topics outlined above and a CSV-themed pre-conference workshop at the SVRI Forum 2024, which will be held in October 2024 in Cape Town. We also intend to integrate participation in our CSV-focussed work as much as possible including involving children, young people and survivors in our ongoing CSV research priority setting for LMICs. We will continue to share what we are learning from the participation work through online learning events such as webinars and through publications in our blog and other channels.

Most of this work will be done in collaboration with some of our partners including Terre des hommes, Together for Girls, We Protect Global Alliance, The Brave Movement and Mtoto News among others. We invite organizations and institutions to share with us their experiences of ethical and meaningful participation of children, young people and CSV survivors in research and programs to enhance shared learning.

Join us on the journey

In line with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), we recognize the right for children to be encouraged and provided with opportunities to express their views and opinions, which should be given due weight in decision-making. We further recognize the power of participation to empower and transform the lives of children, young people, survivors, and their communities, particularly when their voices and agency are recognised, valued, and respected. However, we acknowledge that participation can also be conducted in a manner that is tokenistic, extractive and even harmful to children and survivors. We hope that our work will contribute to the enhanced realization of the right for children to participate in an ethical and meaningful manner, as well as increased recognition, value and respect for children’s voice and agency, and to see that translate to safety from child sexual violence and other forms of violence.

Email Joan Njagi (joan@svri.org) to participate and engage with us.

Written by Joan Njagi, Child Sexual Violence Researcher, SVRI

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