The U.N. Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women has recently been coordinating with local leaders to create resource centers to educate young “left behind girls” in China on self-protection and sexual education.
China’s rapid economic growth has been driven by the manufacturing industry on the Eastern seaboard of the country. This combined with high unemployment rates in the Central and Western regions of the country, has caused a steady increase in families traveling across the country to find work. Because of a household registration system that only allows public school access for children in their home towns, many children are left behind while their parents pursue work.
According to a 2012 report from the All-China Women’s Federation, the number of left-behind children increased by 7.57 million since 2005, or 47 percent – a total of over 61 million children. Many of these children are left with extended family members or other villagers, but approximately four percent are left to fend for themselves.
Newly created spaces for children’s safety are looking to empower these left-behind children while giving them the knowledge to succeed. The program has so far implemented six centers that offer protection for children from abuse and sexual violence. Three centers that are community-based have established managerial groups, while the other three that are established in schools have teachers coordinating activities like reading, lectures and performances to educate left-behind children.
The U.N. Trust Fund and U.N. Women have been providing financial and technical assistance to help these centers achieve their goals. The U.N. agencies mostly provide technical assistance, with a focus on left-behind girls and increasing their sexual knowledge and self-protection. They also provide help in the form of national experts and a series of handbooks promoting education on these issues.
So far, the program has clearly had an effect in the areas where it has been implemented. By the end of 2013, 500 teachers, 5,000 students and 2,200 guardians had participated in training programs on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse. With any luck, this trend will continue and more left-behind children will be given the education and safety they need to succeed.