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In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in the reporting of incidents of crimes against children, especially of sexual abuse. Sexual assault and rape had increased in the past year with rape figures standing at 40,035 and sexual assault at 6 786. The data showed that over 40,035 cases of rape & sexual assault were reported across South Africa in 2018.

Sexual abuse of children is a serious violation of child rights. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognised that the dynamics of child sexual abuse are often very different from adult sexual abuse. In instances of child sexual abuse, the abuse often occurs over a prolonged period and becomes increasingly invasive with every episode.

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The abuser is typically someone known to the child who tries to manipulate the child’s trust and hide the abuse. Such abuse can have a severe impact on the emotional and physiological well-being and development of a child, and its effects may remain for their entire life. Laws alone will never be enough to curb child violence against girls.

Our Rights, Our Safety

Our campaign primarily aims to create awareness among children & young girls to understand and identify the various forms of violence against girls, especially sexual abuse. The campaign also seeks to empower children to speak up and report abuse without fear. While the campaign focuses on empowering children and importantly girls, it also reaches out to teachers, parents, communities, institutions and schools.

It aims to encourage these key stakeholders to commit to building a safe environment for children. The need of the hour is for schools to be proactively involved in child protection and encourage protective behavior among parents.


We, as a community, as parents, as caretakers, as institutions and most importantly, as teachers, should take the responsibility to ensure that children in our care, are safe and secure. Keeping this in mind, we have conceptualised our campaign


Join the campaign and help empower children to speak out against child sexual abuse! Donate R150 monthly to support Our Rights, Our Safety. Your contributions will make a real difference in helping us demand justice and end impunity wherever human rights violations occur. Give the gift of power by donating monthly!

Sevissa Sexual Violence in Schools in South Africa

ActionAid South Africa (AASA) continue supporting these schools and expand to two additional provinces to increase the numbers of girls’ lives we aim to change.

What we plan to do

Create a safe learning environment (as defined by girl learners) for the positive learning of the girl child (ages 13 – 17) to ensure that her right to education is fully realised.

We will also work with partners from our previous programme implementation who have a successful track record in working on the sexual violence in school programme. These are namely Xihlobo Xa Ndevu, Thoyandou Violence Empowerment Project and The Teddy Bear Clinic. Each are strong organised partners and are embedded within communities with over thirty years’ experience combined working on issues affecting children.

We aim to target 40 schools in Limpopo, Northern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng Provinces.

The Programme Approach

The Girl – Herself

  • Empowering girls to advocate for their right to education and freedom from violence
  • Girls clubs that create a safe zone for learning and sharing with peers
  • Specific girls club circles for pregnant learners to ensure retention at school and successful completion of education
  • Develop a cadre of peer advocates who can advocate for their rights and make informed choices and decisions about their lives

The School – Environment

  • Establish a robust and girl-led School safety forum that comprises of learners, educators and parents that informs the development and implementation of safety policies
  • Co-create the schools’ Code of Conduct, a Sexual Abuse Policy, a Health & Safety Policy, Policy on bullying led and defined by learners within schools
  • Develop a joint action plan to address Violence Against Women (VAG) and reporting alongside disciplinary processes for each school
  • Train educators, School Governing Body, Senior Management Team, Parents, Police Psychosocial units to become active champions of care
  • Infrastructural improvements at schools to improve safety

The Community

  • Establishing a community-based referral system to strengthen referral and encourage reporting of acts of violence and
  • Develop a system that shows a clear link to department of social development, South Africa Police Services and the Department of Health

What we’ve done so far

Girl’s Right to Education Programme

Sexual Violence in Schools South Africa (SeViSSA) is a programme that was implemented by ActionAid South Africa between 2014 and 2019 in 27 schools across the provinces of Limpopo and Gauteng. This programme focus is on empowering girls and establishing systems and protocols that create safe spaces for them to empower one another, learn about their rights against violence and to find solutions to the challenges that they face on a daily basis as learners. The programme also sought to ensure that the school environment was enabled to promote a safe and conducive space for girls to thrive and ensure their right to education is secured. This was done by working with girl learners taking the lead in establishing forums with educators, relevant government stakeholders and community members making it a holistic approach programme.

The link between the realisation of the right to education and violence is inextricable. High levels of violence become deterrents and obstacles to girls fully realising this very necessary right to end the cycle of poverty. One area that violence directly obstructs this is at the school itself. Therefore, the need for a schooling environment free from violence becomes imperative.

Below are some examples of the learnings and successes from our 2019 SeviSSA Programme Evaluation Report:

Girl learners’ academic performance has improved. Improved academic performance could be linked to the finding that girl learners believe that to have equality in the relationships with boys, girls need to be independent. Being independent was further described as encouragement to focus on your studies so that one can earn her own money and not to conform to peer pressure to have a boyfriend to obtain financial benefits. Furthermore, for being independent, respondents proposed the following: “Find jobs” “Exclude money from the relationship” and “Parents to give money to girls so no need to ask from boys”

The SeViSSA program has contributed to increased retention of girls in participating schools. Number of girls dropping out from school because of pregnancy and motherhood has significantly decreased in majority of the schools


By placing the girls in the centre of the project, SeViSSA project has increased girls’ awareness of their value of themselves as equal human beings in relation to boys and men. Girls are observing human rights violations in schools and they are reporting violations to the authorities. Furthermore, girls are observing behaviours of the educators, how they are treating girl learners and responding to reported cases, therefore contributing to the overall safety of the schools and advocacy of women rights.

Impact on Schools
As a result of the multi stakeholder forums established, and adherence to reporting guidelines and responding protocols; the girl learners in Limpopo and Gauteng have noticed that reported cases are being taken seriously; especially by educators
Sexual Abuse policy, health and safety, policy on bullying developed led by girl learners
Developed action plan to address violence against girls within school
Reporting and disciplinary process in place
Schools have developed and improved relevant school safety policies
Impact on Girls
Programme improved girls’ self-confidence, ability to focus on school resulting healthy choices, increased knowledge on their rights and developed ability to demand safety and protection from school authorities
Increased retention in schools.
Reduction in pregnancy related drop out
Significant decrease in teen pregnancy
Empowered and confident girl learners able to deal with daily challenges

It is for this reason that an approach to supporting girls’ education through eradicating violence is an important approach. One that is holistic and considers every aspect that contributes to a girl’s education. A key success of the previous implementation was how the project ensured an approach that included educators, external support and the girls themselves at the centre.

Why the Work is Necessary

The 2015 Baseline Survey Report, which was produced before the start of the SeViSSA Programme in Gauteng and Limpopo schools revealed the following disclosure of incidents from learners:

Girls are being bullied by boys during breaks. Boys take food from girls all the time. Girls will not focus in class. Educators should make sure that girls and boys have equal food.” (Female learner, L109)

“Back in 2013 my best friend was raped, and she ended up being a drop-out. She dropped out from school and she is now a non-future girl. The community and the school should have helped her to come back to school.”
(Female learner, L55)

Bullying always happens at our school. Learners at our school, they drop out from school.”
(Male learner, L45)

“A learner was in a relationship with an educator. She knew that she will get more marks by agreeing into sleeping with him. She ended up getting more marks in the exam and she passed. I think an educator should always focus in teaching us rather than giving us marks in return for sex.” (Female learner, L103)

“Mostly I saw our teachers hit learners with electricity cables every time. They are at our staff room they also use big sticks and call us names. Other learners drop out of school. Others they come back with blood at their backs.” (Female learner, L37)

“My friend who is 14 years leave school now because she is pregnant. Her boyfriend is also 14 years old. She is now crying because of her mistake, and as her friend it’s touching me. I also learnt that it’s not good to have sex at that age through my friend’s experience. Her boyfriend refused that he is the father of the pregnancy. The two families should sit down with both girl and boy and find the truth.” (Female learner, L1176)

“My best friend was raped; we did not tell anyone.” (Female learner, L555)

“My niece got raped by her cousins and her mom didn’t report nor did she see that she was raped…the child started not to talk and behave like her normal self. The rape was reported and she got help. There should be more security at our hoods/or townships.” (Female learner, L564)

“Physical, people fight and hurt each other, they even want to hurt each other with knife. The guy should have reason before doing it.” (Female learner, L13)

Globally, South African children experience disproportionally high levels of violence against children (VAC).

  • South Africa’s estimated child homicide rate of 5.5 homicides per 100 000 children is more than twice the global average, and nearly half of all child homicides in South Africa were related to child abuse and neglect.
  • In 2013/2014, 29% of sexual offences reported to the police involved children under the age of 18 years: approximately 51 cases of child sexual victimisation per day.
  • Under-reporting, is severe, and actual rates of VAC are estimated to be much higher.
  • A recent study of nationally representative data on the prevalence of VAC found one in five children (19.8%) experienced sexual abuse, compared with 18% in the global average for girls and 8% for boys, one in three (34.4%) experienced physical abuse, a notable increase from the global average of 23%, one in six (16.1%) reported experiencing emotional abuse compared with the global average of 36%, one in eight (12.2%) reported being neglected in comparison with the global average of 16% and one in six (16.9%) reported witnessing violence.
  • Violence in South African schools includes, threats of violence, psychological abuse, robbery, physical assaults, corporal punishment, gang violence, sexual violence and bullying

While South Africa has introduced progressive laws and policies to combat the issue of all forms of violence against women and girls, sexual violence in schools continues to pose a serious threat to the right to education. In the recent past, South African Council for Educators submitted to parliament that sexual violence in schools has increased by 223 percent.


This is an indication of the crisis that South Africa finds itself in that undermines the attainment of internationally accepted educational goals such as, Sustainable Development Goals 4 (Quality Education) and 5 (Gender Equality).

As part of the Baseline Survey Report that AASA conducted in 2015, some the findings were as follows:

How we will Ensure the Project Achieves its Aims

  • Key learning questions through the implementation of the project that form the basis for a Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) framework focusing on the desired change the project will seek to bring about
  • A baseline survey will be conducted at the outset of the project in all implementation locations to measure levels of awareness and social norms regarding sexual violence
  • On-going monitoring activities at defined intervals and throughout the process will measure changes in attitudes and values over time
  • Participatory activities will place the girls at the centre, utilising self-monitoring and awareness building.
  • Quarterly reports will be produced to provide updates on implementation progress.
  • A mid-term review will be conducted to take stock of results and to incorporate learnings from context into the project
  • Finally, an end-line evaluation will provide insights into the impact the program has had and inform future programming.
Why ActionAid South Africa is the Ideal Organisation to Deliver this Project

  • ActionAid South Africa is a nationally registered civil society organisation currently working in six provinces of South Africa namely Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga
  • ActionAid works with communities and movements of people to further human rights and to challenge the root causes of poverty and social injustices for women, children, youth and LGBTI persons. With over 15 of implementing successful women’s rights programming that empowers women to become advocates to challenge and see their rights realised
  • AASA has a footprint in both urban and rural locations in six provinces across the country
  • AASA played a lead role in the 01 August 2018 Women’s protest (#TheTotalShutdown) calling for government to prioritise addressing gender-based violence in South Africa. This protest led to the development of the Gender Declaration which articulated government and civil society’ commitment to working together to address this scourge. To date, the government of South Africa together with civil society have developed a National Strategic Plan which serves as a guiding document to tackle gender-based violence.
  • A key milestone is the commitment by government to develop an emergency plan and allocate 1,6 billion SA Rands towards tackling this crisis in the country. This is indeed a historic moment as this would have not been possible without the persistence of civil society partners and women across the country in holding the state to account.
  • To date, AASA continues engage in advocacy and campaigning initiatives in South Africa, more recently AASA supported young women to take part in public hearings on the Traditional Courts Bill. This Bill, if passed in its current state is likely to have far reaching negative consequences for women and girls particularly in the handling of gender-based violence in these courts.
  • We hold a strong track record of working with marginalized women to see them successfully realize their rights (one example from rural women and another from The Rainbow Activist Alliance).