To discuss the formulation of an effective advocacy strategy to curb Child Sexual Abuse, an emergency meeting was held at the CRM National Secretariat on 17th, January, 2018.
The meeting started with a welcome note by acting CRM coordinator Farshad Iqbal. He gave the suggestion to create a list of NGOs engaged in service delivery and relevant government organizations to make it easy for CRM members to use it as a referral mechanism. He suggested dividing the list in thematic areas such as child sexual abuse, street children, orphanages, etc.
Meena Gabeena explained that such a list already existed in the past and can be revived. Mr Imtiaz (Handicap International) suggested that provincial chapters should be contacted as some might already have such directories. He suggested that using existing directories would save time.
While there was some debate over the fact whether cases should go through CRM chapters only or if a separate directory can also be useful; it was eventually decided by CRM members that they have no objection if the CRM National Secretariat wanted to create a list to streamline the referral process, including for cases of child sexual abuse.
Strategy on Child Sexual Abuse
Farshad Iqbal presented some points that were shared by Mr Arshad Mahmood via email. The extract of the points shared by Mr Arshad Mahmood are as follows:
- CRM is a coalition working for the promotion and protection of child rights through awareness, research, advocacy and lobbying and I think it should remain the same however, there should be special committees of the member organizations with a focus on different issues i.e. Child Sexual Abuse, Juvenile Justice, Child Labor etc. New issue based committees could be established with specific ToR.
- I think it will be good to use the Zainab case for broader child protection reforms as the government is receptive to various ideas and recommendations but this mood usually never last long. It will be good to ask for extensive police trainings and capacity building on CSA related investigation, enactment of a comprehensive child protection policy and legislation in Punjab, strengthening of the child protection system and establishment of the child protection units in all districts of the province, establish of the provincial commission on the rights of the child, inclusion of life skills in the curricula for capacity building of children to protect themselves from abuse and exploitation etc.
Mr Sajjad Cheema (Save the Children) suggested that these suggestions can be divided in a short-term and long-term strategy. He explained that while more holistic reforms such as police trainings can be included in the long-run, a short-term strategy is also needed. He suggested viewing the issue from two angles, with emphasis on enhancing police expertise regarding dealing with child sexual abuse, improving investigative expertise, as well as focusing on child rights sensitization.
He also highlighted the need to stress upon the individual value of children. As children are seen in our society as the responsibility of parents and their individual rights are not recognized.
Qudsia (Individual Member) discussed the need for training of police on child protection laws as she believes that police lack information about relevant laws. She also called for SOPs for a suitable strategy on CSA.
Ms. Saiqa (Rozan) emphasized on wider reforms for child protection and pointed out the need for psycho-social support for not only victims but also their families, since they are also severely traumatized in the event of their children falling victim to sexual abuse. Ms. Saiqa said that we all need to take ownership and keep cases alive and be consistent in our approach. She said that Emotional health is ignored and CSA cases require constant support also to families. She also pointed towards the absence of child protection committees in hospitals.
Mr Arshed Mahmood (IDRAK) suggested handling every case like a personal matter and not focus on network related politics but rather the cause. Since he believed that certain networks perhaps focus more on taking credit and highlighting themselves rather than working with civil society on the task at hand.
Ms Fazila Sherdil (IDRAK) raised the question about why networks like CRM were being left out of the NCSW strategy. Answering this question Mr Haseeb Khawaja explained that NCSW (National Commission on the Status of Women) will be reaching out to networks in the next phase. However, the confusion remained regarding the inclusion of EVAWG in the same meeting but not CRM.
Mr Mamtaz Gohar (Sahil) suggested that we should identify organizations that can provide legal aid or counseling according to need of victims, including psychological support for families. A working committee has already been made NCSW. Strategy and final recommendations can gel with the NCSW strategy.
MR Gohar also called for sharing of recommendations should with Ms Manizeh Bano, since she is a part of the Punjab committee on child sexual abuse.
Mr Ishtiaq Gillani (UGOOD) said that the police departments, local people and politicians are involved. We only act as a temporary pressure group. EVAG, CRM, multiple alliances protested immediately after the Zainab case. However, he pointed out that cases often get ignored, citing the Tayyaba case as an example. We called multiple organizations but had a problem sending her for shelter (when she was identified as a victim of violence). He suggested using the Tayyaba case as a long-term strategy and the Zainab case as a short-term strategy.
Ms Sabeen (SPARC) called for a stakeholder analysis to help better understand which stakeholders to reach out to.
Noor-ur-Reham (Islamic Relief) said that there should be constant follow up for all cases to ensure justice. This sentiment was also shared by other CRM members. He also called for the need for more social media activism and sought CRM’s help in trending keywords to highlight important issues.
Mr Fahad Haidri (Muslim Aid) called for prevention and response, suggesting that CRM should start with how to respond to cases, confidentiality, and what platforms to choose in the short-run. Whereas, in the long term, the strategy should focus more on media, where media personnel are capacitated on what department has what responsibility, followed by awareness raising programmes in the media to better inform the general public.
Mr Farshad Iqbal suggested to sum up the debate by requesting Mamtaz Gohar from Sahil and Ms Saiqa Ashraf from Rozan to use their existing lessons learned and documentation related to CSA to create SOPs for CRM for handling cases of child sexual abuse, including a step by step process by which a case should be referred and escalated to relevant authorities/organizations. He also asked if Mr Kausar Abbas can join the working group since he has relevant experience working with media personnel which can be helpful in formulating the strategy. He suggested this as a part of the short-term strategy. Ms Mishal (IPAD), Mr Ishtiaq Gillani (UGOOD) & Arshed Mahmood (IDRAK) volunteered to be a part of the group as well.
He also suggested making the referral list that can help improve the knowledge and mechanism for organizations and individuals within CRM and the general public to refer cases of CSA and other child rights violations, as well as to access services (e.g. enrolling street children at a street children center or referring cases on CSA for legal aid).
Farshad Iqbal also retreated the sentiment of CRM members about keeping cases alive until they have reached a logical conclusion to avoid cases from going cold.
- A working group for creating a short-term strategy based on existing experience and lessons learned has been set up for making SOPs for handling cases of child sexual abuse. The working group consists of Mamtaz Gohar (Sahil), MS. Saiqa (Rozan), Ishtiaq Gillani (UGOOD), Syed Kausar Abbas (SSDO), Ms Mishal (IPAD), and Mr Arshed Mahmood (IDRAK).
- It was agreed that a referral directory will be created by CRM National Secretariat to help better expedite the referral mechanism for cases of child sexual abuse and other child rights violations.
- It was decided that CRM members would ensure that cases are kept alive until justice is served to ensure more effective advocacy.