How to provide care services to boy survivors of sexual exploitation in an ethnically sensitive and gender-transformative approach.
Given that programmatic responses to identify and meet the particular needs of boys are scarce, ECPAT International launched the Global Boys Initiative (GBI) to explore the sexual exploitation of boys and the services available for their protection. The GBI embarked on a series of research projects in different countries around the world to shed light on understanding the scale of the sexual exploitation of boys: vulnerability and risk factors, the barriers to disclosure and access to services, and what needs to be improved in prevention and response strategies. Now that the first research phase of the Initiative has concluded, we can confidently speak on a number of pressing issues concerning the sexual exploitation of boys. Thus, we are able to consolidate what we know to influence and frame the agenda of the project, its advocacy actions and further research. We know that the sexual exploitation of boys is a global issue. We have consolidated information on the main factors leading to sexual abuse and exploitation and their context in which situations of risk, gender norms, and barriers to access are important points to consider. We now focus on how to address these challenges and how to support boys and service providers involved in the fight against sexual exploitation.
In July 2022, we began mobilizing ECPAT members in different regions to inform them about the GBI. We explored possibilities of implementing the Initiative at national and regional levels and capitalizing on the wealth of experiences that our members have in their work with boys.
In discussions with Fundación Renacer in Colombia, several areas of interest and collaboration were identified as relevant to the success of the GBI nationally and globally. These included the documentation of work with child survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation, the accompaniment of children in situations of mobility, and collaboration with local organizations supporting children of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGIE children).
To this end, the aim was to document the working practices of direct assistance to boy survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation in Colombia in order to capitalize on these experiences, to encourage learning from other organizations across the world, and to feed into GBI’s practical knowledge – thus contributing to answering the global question: “how can we work with boys at risk or survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation in a gender-sensitive way?”
Fundación Renacer is a member of ECPAT International in Colombia and its mission is to contribute to putting an end on the sexual exploitation of children through the lens of protection, defense and restoration of children’s rights. This is achieved by means of comprehensive care, prevention, research, training, collaborative work with organizations and local communities, and direct support to victims. The main focus of the work of Fundación Renacer is a humanist commitment that allows children to resume the exercise of their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Fundación Renacer is headquartered in Bogotá, and operates its comprehensive care programs for children victims of sexual exploitation in Bolívar and La Guajira.
In these municipalities, Fundación Renacer provides specialized care to children who are victims of sexual violence, with two dedicated care centers in Cartagena and Riohacha. Likewise, it provides legal advice for families and children who have been victims of different forms of sexual violence. In addition, further support is provided to population in situation of migration and displacement.
Community empowerment and social mobilization
The community leaders are trained by Fundación Renacer, who adapt their methodology to each relevant actor involved in the structures of protection. These consist of prevention agents and multipliers, who establish networks that allow child protection and develop actions to identify and care for victims of violence. At a community level, Fundación Renacer provides support by developing strategies and joint efforts to prevent child sexual exploitation. In particular, Fundación Renacer uses a communication process for social change as its central pillar, enabling learning scenarios where the language is adjusted to the sociocultural specificities of each target group and territory intervened. This way, the imaginaries that justify or normalize sexual exploitation and the practices that sustain them can be transformed.
A fundamental strategy in the prevention of sexual exploitation of children is the creation of networks of girls, boys, and young people as multiplier agents. The aim is to increase their organizational and self management capacities to impact the community, school, and institutional spaces. And to make effective their political right to express their opinions, needs, and interests so that these are heard and considered in decisions related to protection against sexual violence. Young people from vulnerable communities and schools participate in these networks, as well as graduates of care programs.
Support to the institutional sector
Fundación Renacer provides support to local governors and mayors’ offices for the developing of prevention strategies and care to sexual exploitation. These occur through training actions, the design of local plans or public policies and the support to law enforcement, prosecutors and judges for prosecution of sexual exploitation of children.
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