Safety and Protection
Existing Product, Platform or Service
Proof of Concept
Established in 2004, Connect Network is a collaborative network of 85 NPOs and churches. Collectively they work to help improve the lives of women and children at risk through health, education, psychosocial and economic empowerment initiatives, across communities in the Western Cape region of South Africa.
On 27 March 2020, the South African government introduced a nationwide lockdown (stay-at-home order) to curb the spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus. One of the consequences of the lockdown has been a drastic increase in domestic violence. South Africa, before the pandemic, already had alarmingly high instances of gender-based violence (GBV) and child abuse. According to reports, in the first week of lockdown, 87 000 cases of GBV were reported to the police. High rates of neglect and abuse of children have also been recorded.
Connect Network’s Covid-19 child protection response is being carried out through their existing child protection model, which is to build capacity within NPOs and churches in child protection protocol and to establish Child Protection Networks (CPNs) in the communities they work in.
CPNs are established through specific NPOs or churches who act as ‘Lead Agents’. These ‘Lead Agents’ facilitate working groups within their respective communities and each working group has their own steering committee. NPOs and Child Protection Officers participate in these working groups and are provided with child protection training, capacity building support and mentorship to further help them implement and establish child protection protocols and policies. The working groups provide a platform for these lead agents to share up to date information with their steering committee, enabling NPOs and churches to respond effectively to protect children.
The Innovation Edge rapid response funding has helped Connect Network to expand their reach, continue the delivery of their model, and pivot their services in the following ways:
1. Developing a Remote Online Training Tool:
Transforming their existing in-person training and peer mentoring programme into a robust, remote online training tool. This tool will equip 25 new organisations being onboarded as well as become a valuable resource to train organisations remotely throughout the province. The training will equip the new organisations with the knowledge of how to follow the correct reporting mechanisms, recognise and report abuse and connect with field workers who are providing essential services to children and their families during and beyond the lockdown period.
2. Distributing Child Protection Booklets:
Facilitating the distribution of age-appropriate child protection booklets to ensure that caregivers have something tangible that can help them identify abuse, know their rights and where they can find help.
Overall the Connect Network affiliate organisations are directly serving 345000 children and employing 3841 social workers, youth workers and health care workers. Based on previous data, it is expected that 11 000 children between the ages of 0-6 will be reached through this intervention.
Why we invested
Connect Network already has widely established networks and systems in place across the Western Cape and is able to quickly and without significant additional effort equip organisations on matters related to child protection. The organisation also has extensive experience in training and mentorship and working with a wide range of organisations who directly work with caregivers and young children including, NPOs, churches, social workers and child protection officers.
The Project Team
Grace Nkomo is the Director of Connect Network. She has been involved in the development sector since 2004. She holds degrees in Theology and Development, and is completing her PhD in Development Studies, with a focus on the vulnerability of children.