Together for Girls: Protecting Children from Violence

By Sara Sandlin and Lorie Burnett, Senior Program Officers at the CDC Foundation

By Lorie Burnett and Sara Sandlin, Senior Program Officers at the CDC Foundation

It is estimated that 150 million girls worldwide under the age of 18 have been the victims of sexual violence. As shocking as these numbers are, the actual occurrence of sexual violence is likely higher because most cases are never reported to authorities due to fear, stigma and discrimination. The consequences of this injustice are profound. Not only do victims of sexual violence experience immense health and emotional effects, but there are also broader social and economic implications for countries, particularly those where the occurrence of sexual violence is more prevalent.

The CDC Foundation is proud to work with international partners as a charter member of Together for Girls, a public-private partnership dedicated to ending violence against children, with a focus on sexual violence against girls. Founded by CDC Foundation Board Member and former Chair Gary Cohen, executive vice president of BD, Together for Girls is a global intersection of governments, the United Nations, civil society and the private sector that have joined together to prevent and respond to violence against children.

Led and owned by national governments, Violence Against Children Surveys have greatly advanced understanding of the scale of violence against children, the links to gender inequality and HIV infection, and the circumstances that make children vulnerable to violence. ©Sandie Taylor/Together for Girls

Led and owned by national governments, Violence Against Children Surveys have greatly advanced understanding of the scale of violence against children, the links to gender inequality and HIV infection, and the circumstances that make children vulnerable to violence. ©Sandie Taylor/Together for Girls

This week, Together for Girls will release the second edition of Safe, a digital magazine designed to raise awareness about violence against children. The magazine will feature data tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developed as part of CDC’s work to help countries throughout the world measure violence against children and translate that knowledge into action. To date, CDC has conducted Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) in Cambodia, Haiti, Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, which have all released their survey results. These surveys—funded in part by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—are also underway or planned in 10 additional countries.

Led and owned by national governments, VACS have greatly advanced our understanding of the scale of violence against children, the links to gender inequality and HIV infection, and the circumstances that make children vulnerable to violence.The surveys are also sparking innovative solutions by country leaders and civil society.

  • Swaziland has launched U-Report, a free mobile-based texting tool youth can use to report violence confidentially, get service referrals or simply ask health questions anonymously.
  • Tanzania has trained 4,000 police, social welfare officers, primary school teachers, health workers and district justice officials in child protection in just one year.
  • Kenya is rolling out a successful model of “one stop centres.” Over a two-year period, one centre in Malindi increased the number of violent incidents reported from just 1-2 cases per week to 10-20 cases per week.

Beyond the severe human rights violations, children who experience violence are at greater risk for lifelong, destructive—yet preventable—consequences, including HIV infection, chronic diseases, crime and drug abuse, as well as serious mental health problems. Together, we can build a safer, healthier world for children. The time to act is now.

Together for Girls is a global public-private partnership dedicated to ending violence against children, with a focus on sexual violence against girls. The partnership includes five UN agencies (led by UNICEF with UNAIDS, UN Women, WHO and UNFPA); the U.S. government (CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and its partners, USAID and the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues); and the private sector (Grupo ABC, Becton, Dickinson and Company [BD], the CDC Foundation and the Nduna Foundation). Learn more about CDC’s role in Together for Girls: www.cdcfoundation.org/what/program/together-girls

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