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Reporting mechanisms

What are reporting mechanisms?

Reporting mechanisms are systems that enable victims/witnesses and their advocates to report crimes or violations.

Safe, easily-accessible, confidential reporting mechanisms are important in terms of addressing SRGBV so that all learners can safely report violence and abuse, and know that there will be services to support them, if they wish.

Reporting mechanisms are critical for holding perpetrators of SRGBV to account for their actions and ensuring that the perpetrator can do no more harm to students or the community (USAID, 2009). 

Challenges to reporting SRGBV 

A UNESCO review of SRGBV in the Asia-Pacific region identified several challenges for reporting mechanisms:

  • power relations between males and females, as well as between children and teachers
  • violence is seen as a ‘normal’ part of school life –deeply ingrained social and cultural norms that condone or justify violence can also mean that young people may have difficulty recognizing physical and sexual abuse. Young girls in particular may perceive emotional abuse and controlling behaviour as signs of love
  • lack of systems for reporting SRGBV – often reporting mechanisms simply do not exist
  • students do not trust reporting mechanisms – the fear of reprisals, victimization, stigma, punishment or ridicule can make reporting SRGBV a risky undertaking.

Source: UNESCO (2014)

There are several options for different types of reporting mechanisms, including telephone helplines, chat rooms and online reporting, ‘happiness and sadness’ boxes, as well as school-based focal points, such as teachers. Reporting mechanisms must be made accessible to all learners and should take into account the particular barriers that learners with special needs, or those from minority groups or highly stigmatized groups – such as LGBTI children – may face in reporting violence. Some key questions to think about when choosing the most appropriate reporting mechanism are shown below.

Practical action – How to design SRGBV reporting mechanisms? Key considerations

  • Are students aware of the reporting process – do they know what will happen when they report an incident of violence or abuse, and what the subsequent process is likely to be?
  • What is the process for dealing with reports of serious incidents of violence or abuse that violate national or local laws?
  • How is reporting linked to local referral and support networks, including in the community and through the formal social services?
  • How can reports be effectively followed up through formal protection systems without reprisals?
  • How can the reporting mechanism feed into awareness-raising activities?
  • How can girls and boys be involved in the design and implementation of reporting systems?
  • Would it be beneficial for the reporting mechanism to be anonymous?
  • If the reporting mechanism is anonymous, how do you provide support to the individual who needs it?
  • For reporting mechanisms that are school based, how do you ensure the system is confidential? For example, if using boxes, how do you ensure the perpetrator does not open the box and read the message?
  • Is there a data management system in place for monitoring reporting trends?
  • What is the appropriate role for local, traditional or religious leaders in the process? Have they been adequately consulted?

 

Country examples of SRGBV reporting mechanisms

Telephone helpline

Kenya: In 2008, a free 24-hour telephone and web-based helpline was set up for children in Kenya – National Child Helpline 116 (the three-digit number is free and memorable). Trained volunteer counsellors provide support and referral services for children concerned about sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect, including SRGBV. From the outset, girls frequently reported to the helpline that they had been sexually abused by their teachers – leading to over 1,000 teachers being dismissed from their jobs between 2009 and 2010. The helpline has also established a school outreach service to raise awareness, including training teachers and students. In addition, the organization Childline has partnered with the Teachers Service Commission to develop a Teacher Sexual Offenders database to track abusive school teachers in Kenya (UNICEF, 2011).

Chat rooms and online reporting

Netherlands: The Kindertelefoon is an anonymous Dutch helpline for children under 18 to discuss a range of concerns, but most commonly sex, relationships, bullying at school and their home life. As well as a telephone line, children can chat to a trained volunteer from Kindertelefoon through the website in conversations lasting up to 30 minutes. A comparative study by Fukkink and Hermanns (2007) of the effect of contacting the organization by phone or the confidential one-on-one online chat service found that children who contacted Kindertelefoon by both methods experienced a higher sense of well-being and a reduced severity of their problems. The follow-up survey found that the effect of contacting Kindertelefoon lasts for at least one month after the contact, although the effect decreases slightly after that.

Lebanon: The e-helpline is an online reporting system in Lebanon to help children communicate quickly with a team of professionals. It consists of a reporting mechanism, online technical support, as well as referrals and counselling. The online safety project is a collaboration between World Vision, himaya (a local NGO) and the Lebanese Higher Council for Childhood.  

‘Happiness and sadness boxes’

Malawi: As part of Plan Malawi’s Learn without Fear, the project introduced ‘happiness and sadness’ boxes to improve child reporting of abuse and SRGBV in target schools. The boxes are a place for children to anonymously report cases of abuse and SRGBV. Some of the issues highlighted through boxes include bullying, corporal punishment, denial of food, working at teachers’ houses and witchcraft. A 2010 evaluation found that the boxes were an innovative and successful initiative. Of all the project activities, participants rated the boxes most highly. Both teachers and learners thought the boxes were an effective child protection measure, enabling children to report cases of abuse and SRGBV. Committee members managing the reports were assessed to have referred issues to the appropriate authorities (e.g. police and child protection committees). However, the evaluation recommended improved girls’ participation in opening the boxes (Alinane Consulting, 2010).

Focal teachers

DRC: As part of the USAID Communication for Change (C-Change) SRGBV Project (2010–2012), teachers were trained to be the focal point for students to report SRGBV. The teachers were handpicked female teachers who had previously worked as mentors on an earlier USAID project. After boys complained they felt uncomfortable reporting their experiences of violence to female teachers, C-Change included both a male and female teacher in each school as designated ‘focal teachers’.

Clear adjudication processes should be put in place to give confidence to those who report incidents that the system will see it through. Several studies have shown that students rarely report violence or abuse, partly because experience tells them that no action will be taken, or that they may face negative repercussions if it is. For example, a cross-country research study in Africa found that girls in particular rarely report violence; in Mozambique, only 6 per cent of girls who experienced violence had reported it, with figures only slightly higher in Ghana (15 per cent) and Kenya (35 per cent) (Parkes and Heslop, 2011). Similarly, research in Thailand found that LGBTI learners rarely reported violence, partly due to the lack of effective structures and policy to ensure the safety of students who are or are perceived to be LGBTI, fostering a culture of ‘sweeping the problem under the carpet’ (UNESCO/Mahidol University/Plan, 2014, p. 80).

Reporting of suspected abuse of children can be either on a voluntary basis or mandatory by law. Mandatory reporting of violence and abuse is a fraught issue; incentives to do so and sanctions for not doing so need to be carefully thought through, while keeping the interests and protection of the child as a central concern. In many countries, schools and school heads’ performance are assessed in a way that forces them to hide problems in the schools; these incentives need to be carefully reviewed. Additionally, reporting cases to parents is also difficult and teachers and heads require support to do this well.

Reporting guidelines: Ontario, Canada

Reporting is carefully handled in the 2010 Keeping Our Kids Safe at School Act in Ontario, Canada. The Act clearly lays out what should be reported, by whom and what the consequences are. This is all detailed in a downloadable document, which answers key questions about reporting and responding to SRGBV.

 

 

 

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