BRIDGE: Building Gender-Based Violence Awareness in Europe
Studies point to alarming accounts of gender-based violence (GBV) affecting refugee and migrant children and youth in the European Union. Sexual and gender-based violence refers to any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships[i]. Even though any gender can be affected by this type of violence, it is women and girls who are mainly the victims of it as most often men have a dominant role in gender relations.[ii] Several challenges, such as lack of data and professionals’ knowledge and coordination, as well as the low awareness amongst migrant children and youth make GBV difficult to tackle. The BRIDGE project strengthens the protection of GBV affected children and youth on the move in Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Malta, Romania and other EU countries.
Migration can be a traumatic experience for children and youth. They are sometimes travelling thousands of kilometres in dangerous and unhealthy conditions with limited access to food, shelter or medical care. The increased vulnerability as a result puts them at risk for gender-based violence. This may include violence and exploitation by traffickers, civil servants, staff from public institutions, other migrants, or even their own family members. While it can happen to anyone on their journey or in their destination country, harmful social norms about the role of a man and a woman and gender-based power imbalances make young women and girls especially vulnerable. Moreover, victims are usually afraid to report gender-based violence, and are commonly disbelieved, ignored or blamed and shamed by their families and communities when they do.
“Most cases of GBV go unreported by children. It is therefore up to adults to be able to recognize the signs of GBV so that appropriate and swift action can be taken,” explains Nenad Matejic, the manager of the project. With this project, we are targeting the underreporting of cases of gender-based violence.
Innovative data collection tools
To address the issue of lack of data, we have developed a mobile data collection tool for care professionals and children and youth on the move. The questionnaire allows us to collect data on instances when GBV occurs, on the current knowledge gaps amongst professionals to recognise GBV and respond to it, on the level of understanding of GBV amongst children and youth on the move, and on their awareness of available protection services. Based on this new accurate data, we design our activities such as training programmes for care professionals and awareness raising campaigns.
Improving the capacities of care professionals
More than 1000 care professionals across Europe benefit from our training programme. They learn how to identify and address specific forms of GBV among children and youth on the move and how to help them to prevent and recognise it. The on- and offline training is connected to our regional learning and sharing platform, ChildHub, which builds a gender-based violence community of practice and supports them with resources.
Raising the awareness of children and youth
We engage children and youth on the move themselves in the development of awareness raising campaigns in each country. The campaigns will inform them about the risks they might encounter during the migration journey, about how to protect themselves, how to identify and report gender-based violence and abuse, and about where to seek support.