Creating Safe Child Friendly Spaces in Sri Lanka

As a country, Sri Lanka’s traditional approach to addressing vulnerability of children at risk is to remove them from the situation of possible danger and place them in shelter homes and care institutions. Recently a consciousness about the negative, and often lasting, impact that institutionalization has on children has grown, and the government together with NGOs and faith-based organizations is looking at alternative care approaches to better protect most vulnerable children.

The Good Shepherd Sisters Sri Lanka, who have been working to uplift the living conditions of the most marginalized families for years, thus decided to review practices and extend its services to children who are vulnerable and at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation, starting community based child protection programs.

These programs adopting a comprehensive and holistic approach to child protection have proved to be more effective to address the root causes, shifting from traditional residential care to a right based approach. Systemic interventionsare introduced into the families and communities to create safe environments for children based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the laws in the country.

With the support of GSIF and other partners, the Good Shepherd Sisters Sri Lanka started in 2018 a project in 3 tea plantations in Walawe and Waleboda Estates in Balangoda and Hallina Estate in Kahawatta to address children’s rights violations such as early termination of school, child labour and early marriage by creating child friendly safe spaces where children are protected and supported to develop their full potential.

Besides having a safe environment to study and play, children can learn their rights and responsabilities and be provided with counseling and psychological therapy in the form of art, play, music and dance.

This pilot project aims also to strengthen the ‘circle of care’ and rings of responsibility for child protection from immediate primary care givers (parents and family members) to the wider community at large including teachers, educators, district and estate officers, engaging the entire local community to build a strong child protection mechanism by strengthening social ties.

Learn more about Good Shepherd child protection programs in Sri Lanka
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