The Our Voices Too Advocacy Project is working with partners in Europe to deliver training and support young people, who are current and former service users, to plan and implement advocacy activities on sexual violence against children in their respective countries. The first phase of this project involved facilitators from our partner organisations establishing a group of young people with lived experience of sexual violence, and facilitating a number of sessions and activities which explored creating a safe space for group work, understanding sexual violence, learning about child rights and participation and exploring advocacy (more information, including briefings and podcasts on the toolkit developed for this project, will be shared on the website shortly).
Throughout the process a team of researchers at the IC have been collecting data to capture the learning from this project. We have met with the young people involved, the Youth Advocates, in all three countries and have organised two learning events to bring the partners together to share and discuss challenges, strategies and feedback on the project. We held our first shared learning event earlier in the year in Tirana, Albania where we discussed how the facilitators had found delivering the different sessions in the toolkit with the Youth Advocates. We also heard how all three groups of Youth Advocates had identified the 'first conversations' between professionals and young people as critical in supporting individuals affected by abuse and exploitation. In the Chisinau meeting we wanted to learn more about the implementation of the advocacy activities the Youth Advocates had designed and discuss key learning and reflections from this part of the project.
In the last three months the Youth Advocates have been involved in a number of advocacy activities. For example, we heard how the Youth Advocates in Serbia had met with the National Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in the country to share their views and find out about the support in place for survivors of trafficking. The Youth Advocates have also worked with designers to develop postcards, posters and bags with important messages for professionals and young people. In Albania the Youth Advocates have been developing a film with a professional film company; taking part in awareness raising activities in Tirana; and finalising a series of posters and leaflets for police officers in the country with messages of how to engage and support victim-survivors. They have also written and submitted an official statement to the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Interior and National Coordinator for Anti-Trafficking in Albania outlining how victim support needs to be improved. In Moldova the group of Youth Advocates have also been working on finalising a film which is targeted at professionals working with young people, showing them the right way and the wrong way to listen to and respond to disclosures by children.
Throughout the two days we discussed some key themes that were emerging from the project, this included:
- The different levels of comfort Youth Advocates displayed when meeting with different groups of stakeholders
- How personal stories of abuse and exploitation were shared, or not, in the group and outside of the group
- The ways in which this project may be contributing to preventing re-victimisation of those involved
- Peer support as an outcome of participatory group working; and
- Costs and benefits of youth-led participatory advocacy.
The current project is in its final stages and in the coming months we will be analysing and sharing the rich learning from this unique project through the Our Voices website.
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