Children in Ghana still experience frequent and multiple forms of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. The 2013 UNICEF Child Protection baseline research report indicates that when children were asked about their experiences of physical discipline, over 57% of respondents (aged 14-17 years) said they were beaten at home “all the time” or “sometimes”, while 34% confirmed experiencing corporal punishment in school from teachers in the last month. This appeared to be the case for both girls and boys, in rural and urban areas.
The financial burden of child abuse in Ghana was estimated at more than USD 200 million per year or 1% of Ghana’s GDP. The estimated total number of children who have been physically or emotionally abused was noted at 3.4 million in Ghana. Several organizations in Ghana decided to proactively seek solutions that address this dire situation.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Edem Agbe, one of our deployers and Managing Director of Participatory Development Associates (PDA), who gave us an insight into their project and goals.
Who are you, and what are your goals for setting up a deployment?
Participatory Development Associates (PDA) is a social development and project management advisory organization based in Ghana. It operates across Sub-Saharan Africa in the areas of research and evaluation of education, child protection, women’s economic empowerment, and local community development.
The main goal for setting up the child abuse tracker deployment was to record incidents as they occurred in real-time, provide evidence of various forms of child abuse cases in Ghana and advocate for effective child protection systems in the country. It was also set up to serve as a database for child abuse in Ghana, to inform and shape child protection advocacy in the country.
What problems do you use Ushahidi deployment to solve?
We collect Child Protection Evidence through data obtained through the map. Due to its prevalence in Ghana, child abuse continues to be a social malice, and perpetrators in many instances escape the full wrath of the law. Abused children, therefore, don’t get justice. The deployment helps generate a child abuse database, in selected print and online media platforms and helps track any legal and judicial proceedings after the cases have been reported in the media.
Who is your target audience?
The general public; particularly the Domestic Violence and Victims’ Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service, parents, children, and non-state actors working in the child protection ecosystem in Ghana.
What was the situation like before the deployment? Did you have a budget and a timeline for this project?
There wasn’t a system for tracking child abuse cases in the public domain. Despite not having a budget, we hope the live evidence from the map will incentivize partners to join us in support of the initiative, as PDA continues to advocate for children’s rights and protection.
What do you value most about your deployment?
The Ushahidi deployment perfectly meets our objective of recording and storing data in real-time, on child abuse in Ghana, and allows for easy analysis. It is also quite easy to navigate. Additionally, interested external parties have access to the published data on the portal at their own convenience.
Fig 2: Example of a report
Expectation VS Reality of the deployment?
The expectation was to create an agile online child abuse database built from public participation in reporting child abuse cases with evidence. The expectation has largely been met.
Fig 3: Reports statistics over time
What would you say has been the most significant result of using Ushahidi?
The case-by-case analysis done quarterly has enabled PDA to join forces with the Department of Children, of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, to advocate the scraping of medical examination fees that child abuse victims were required to pay for medical examination to ascertain the commission of an act of abuse.
The infographic material produced from the deployment has enabled PDA to increase awareness among stakeholders, on the enormity of the forms of abuse perpetrated against children in Ghana. The child abuse infographic report features in our quarterly newsletter https://pdaghana.com/child-abuse-tracker-updates/
What change can you see in the community as a result of the platform?
People are becoming more aware of the gravity of child abuse in the country and taking actions to minimize and/or prevent the perpetration of child abuse.
What strategies have you employed to reach your audiences and collect the data you have today?
Data is sourced from selected print and online media outlets we deem credible. We currently use scraping software that scans through all the online news outlets and collates reported cases of child abuse. The scraped data then undergoes review to select relevant cases that are then recorded on the tracking platform. Telephone numbers are also published to the general public to phone in or send text messages related to child abuse cases.
Which specific features from Ushahidi are the most important to you, and why*?*
The feature that allows for case review before publishing is extremely important as it ensures that cases reported on the platform are verified, credible, and accurate. The credibility of the data is vital for the intended advocacy outcomes to be achieved.
Geographical mapping of reported cases enables easy identification of areas where child abuse is most prevalent and therefore where urgent corrective action is needed.
The feature that enables sharing of published cases across various social media platforms is also quite useful as it enables easy and frequent updates of the project’s progress to the public.
Finally, the feature that enables direct connection of text messages to the platform (not really used now) is helpful in easing the public’s process of getting to the portal to report child abuse cases
What new features would be most valuable for you to see implemented, and how would you use them?
The purpose of the child abuse tracker as by name is to track, therefore a feature that would enable PDA to provide updates on specific cases demonstrating progress after the child abuse case has been reported would be very helpful.
A feature that will enable us to integrate our scraping software into the deployment would also be appreciated as it would allow us to track incoming raw data for analysis purposes.
How do you plan to sustain the project for the foreseeable future and what advice would you give to anyone looking to run a project like yours in the future?
PDA intends to increase traffic on the platform by using data from the tracker for advocacy purposes. We also plan to partner with the Domestic Violence and Victim’s Support Unit of the Ghana Police Service to facilitate use of the data the tracking platform to complement the state’s effort in fighting child violence and abuse in the country.
PDA would advise anyone who intends to run a project like ours to understand the dynamics in advancing efforts to promote child protection and embark on wider community engagement to advocate the need for a safe environment for children’s development.
PDA would also advise sourcing funds for such a project be well-thought-out; otherwise it would be difficult to implement. Currently, it is because of the opensource nature of Ushahidi’s platform that made this project possible for us.
How can the world engage in support of your efforts?
The world should constantly champion the protection of children from all forms of abuse by instituting punitive measures that would deter people from perpetrating child abuse. Individuals need to be bold and confident in reporting child abuse cases, and the legal and law enforcement agencies must ensure that justice is always served.
To view data on our deployment: http://stopviolenceagainstchildren.ushahidi.io/
This article was written by Joseph Kira and originally posted on Ushahidi.
Jun 16, 2022