The primary mandated institutions catering to victims of child sexual abuse in the Philippines are the law enforcers assigned under the Women and Children’s Protection Desks (WCPDs) in police precincts at the community level. In Metro Manila alone there are 43 district police stations, each with a WCPD section.
In 2009, all of the heads of the WCPD sections in Metro Manila started meeting for annual gatherings at Stairway for additional training on the child protection principles that pertain to their work. According to the participants, it was the first time in history that they had the opportunity to all get together and share their experiences and ideas. The shared experiences have been sad and yet inspiring to all who attend. Sad, because of the police women’s testimonies to the extremely challenging work conditions they face, like the limited human and financial resources allocated for the ever increasing number of cases handled by the WCPDs; inspiring, because of the courage and determination displayed to serve their women and children clientele in the best way possible. It is an understatement to say that the WCPD sections are not a high priority within the police force when it comes to allocations of budgets and equipment. Consequently, there seems to be a general disesteem towards being assigned to the WCPD.
Ideally, the WCPD should be the structure for addressing all abuses of women and children. The staff under the WCPD should have the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude in order to cater to victims of abuse. In addition, they should have the necessary facilities in order to facilitate a safe environment for communicating with victims. Not all police stations have a separate WCPD room, or even a separate space allocated to them. The minimum privacy required to establish an atmosphere of trust and calm is rarely there. The space is not supporting the purpose of the WCPDs in providing a proper environment for women and children to feel protected and safe, where they can disclose traumatic experiences of abuse and exploitation.
The lack of equipment is another serious shortcoming. It is not uncommon for a police station to share one computer, and since the WCPDs rank low in the hierarchy of departments, they do not have the most basic tools to operate effectively and to secure the confidentiality of their clients.
Creating Child Friendly Spaces
The concept of creating Child Friendly Spaces in the WCPDs falls in line with Stairway’s creative advocacy and networking strategy for the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse. The outline of the project described here is a result of an open dialogue between Stairway and the law enforcers working in the WCPDs of Metro Manila.
A child-friendly space should have:
- Imagery - The WCPD room should be a space where a child will feel comfortable and safe. Taking cues from how effective counseling rooms are designed, imagery in the form of colors, drawings, paintings, etc., are to be imbued in the rooms in order to make the child feel more at ease. The law enforcers assigned there will feel much better working in this type of setting as well, which will hopefully increase their motivation and help to raise the esteem around working at the WCPDs.
- Materials - One of the strengths of Stairway’s animation toolkits is that they can be used with children as an effective tool in eliciting disclosure of sexual abuse. Under this project, the WCPDs will be provided with the animation toolkits. Toys, paper, crayons, and children’s books will also be provided for each station. Each station will also have a family of 7 anatomically correct dolls on the shelves. These materials will help give the child a calm environment in order to have the strength and courage to disclose something very painful.
- Equipment - The provision of a desktop computer solely for the WCPD would ensure that processes are more streamlined, and that confidentiality is maximized in handling cases of child sexual abuse.
- Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude - Creating a child friendly space is much more than changing the physical room alone. The entire staff under the WCPD shall receive regular trainings from Stairway in order to upgrade their skills and attitudes; they will receive encouragement and support in order to handle the victims of child sexual abuse in a sensitive and safe manner.
Even though this project is focused on children, the quality of the spaces we develop will also benefit the women portion of the clientele.
The project would initially cover a number of stations within Metro Manila. Based on recommendations from the chief of the National Capital Region WCPD, 15 precincts have been chosen as pilot sites for the project. The main criterion is that the precinct should have a separate room for the WCPD Officer and that the Chief Commander and the head of the WCPD at the station commit to the totality of this project. We hope to complete the 15 stations targeted within 2011.
The Implementation Process
Stairway lacks the human resources to reach out to the 15 pilot precincts, so we will call on a pool of volunteers from partner universities in Manila to help. The pool of volunteers will consist of students who have the capacity to contribute to the project in terms of artistic skills and the collection of materials. The volunteers will be lead by a professional interior designer, who will keep the project in motion and will secure consistency and quality throughout the implementation.
Changing/uplifting the space is a very tangible transition, which will make the clients (children and women) and the staff working there feel more comfortable. Other divisions will see the significance given to the WCPD, which will trigger a boost of morale amongst the WCPD staff. With the child friendly space and child friendly treatment concept spreading throughout police stations around the nation, we can assume that victims of abuse will be more motivated to report their cases. More cases reported means breaking the silence, which supports our efforts in the area of prevention.
Our estimated budget runs around 28,000 pesos per station. With 15 stations planned for 2011, the total budget is 423,500 pesos for the renovation and uplifting of the 15 rooms. This amount does not include the training provided or the computers to be installed. The computers will be donated (second hand) from the Singapore American School, on the one condition that we can enter them in the Philippines duty free. The training will be the counterpart of SFI.
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Banco De Oro
Account Name: Stairway Foundation Inc.
Bank Name: Banco de Oro UN Avenue – Philamlife Branch
G/F Philamlife -UN Avenue Building, United Nations Avenue, Manila, Philippines
SWIFT : BNORPHMM
Account Number : 303 940 631 978 (EURO Account)
Account Number : 103 940 623 347 (USD Account)
Account Number : 394 0591 216 (Peso Account)