Protecting at risk children in Lusaka


Children in Zambia are in greater danger of social exclusion and exploitation than ever before, with the risks of abuse numerous and looming heavily within local communities.

The Samalani Children At Risk Network (SCAR) formed in September 2017 and, very excitingly, is the newest network to partner with Viva.

Martin Kapenda is a co-ordinator of SCAR network

Today (Thursday 7 December) they launch The Good Treatment Campaign, a globally recognised Viva campaign, which equips and empowers children to interview adults in their community about their views on abuse.

The organisation behind the creation of the network, Tehila, has been working in Zambia since 2012 to shine a light on unrecognised, unreported and unresolved abuse; identifying that abusers are often then free to prey on vulnerable children again, continuing the cycle.

Co-director Hannah Fairs-Billam shared an insight into just a few of the cases they have seen last month alone: “A few weeks ago we received a message from a female pastor who we had trained, asking for help with a four year old girl who is currently in hospital, having been raped. Last Tuesday, we received a message from a local organisation asking for help with a ten year old boy who had been accused of raping a two year old girl. And on the same day a call from a distressed aunt was taken asking for counselling support for her traumatized teenage niece…”

These horrific examples demonstrate with gut-wrenching clarity the necessity of SCAR’s work and its new sustainable network approach. SCAR is building a network of churches and other organisations working to see an end to child cruelty in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.

The network initially facilitates a three-day Safe Space training for adults working within churches, learning from each other and sharing knowledge about what childhood looks like in Zambia, what abuse is and how to recognise it.

The team were only made aware of the cases highlighted here because key responsible adults in each of these children’s lives knew about SCAR’s work.

They have been trained about how to spot the signs of abuse and how to respond effectively to disclosures. And now, SCAR hopes to see them become trainers within their own communities.

A key area of SCAR’s work is encouraging individuals – children and adults – to speak out about abuse. The questions that are asked by children within The Good Treatment Campaign prompt a raised awareness of the vulnerable positions children can face.

Involving children in the process of creating spaces safe from abuse, and giving them a voice to share their own concerns is at the heart of the SCAR network – but a very new concept within Zambian culture in general!

A passion for children in Zambia: Network co-ordinators Sam and Hannah Fairs-Billam with their two daughters

In November I met Sam Fairs-Billam, co-director of Tehila and co-ordinator of the network. He visited the UK to meet with Viva staff and share his vision for the expanding SCAR network.

He explained: “The network focuses on raising awareness of child protection issues, particularly through the Church. Through strengthening the capacity of individuals with training and resources, we aim to prevent and provide an effective response to child abuse.”

He continued that, in the past, churches had refused to work together, and with just one member of staff following up 19 individual churches and their safeguarding policies, Tehila spread itself far too thin.

Within the network model, SCAR can ensure that a network of 40 churches are holding each other accountable through smaller groups; learning from and following each other’s child protection accomplishments.

These could include improvements such as training and recruiting a child protection officer, implementing a reporting procedure for abuse or creating a child friendly version of a safeguarding policy within the church.

Over the next three years, the network plans to empower children to protect themselves. Adults will know how to prevent and respond to child abuse.

Churches will be working together to protect children.

Communities will be transformed into safer places for children.


Top photo: Alex Berger