Exposure to violence at a young age can result in risky behaviors and greater susceptibility to lifelong social, emotional, and cognitive problems. Often pre-existing social norms make violence a taboo subject, and therefore many incidents go unreported. Some may even feel that incidents of violence in the communities are not important enough to warrant reporting.
Fear of stigmatization, lack of trusted reporting mechanisms, and obliviousness are reasons why violence reporting is low in many communities.
Without a trusted, accessible, and responsive reporting system, violence in the communities continues to thrive as the weak continue being oppressed. The situation is dire when the oppressed are children.
The VuruguMapper Initiative
Plan International, while implementing development Programs in the Kilifi County, Kenya, identified that Child abuse cases were rampant at the time and engaged the Poimapper team to develop a Child Abuse Case Management System to help seal the gaps within the chain of child abuse reporting from occurrence to prosecution.
As a result, VuruguMapper (Violence Mapper) was developed. VuruguMapper consists of a web portal for user management, reporting and data tools configuration, as well as a mobile app, used to record abuse cases.
The mobile app loads a caseload form with the necessary fields to report a case. The mobile app is primarily used by Child Protection Volunteers (CPVs) and Community Health Workers (CHW) (herein referred to as users). When a user gets information of a child abuse occurrence, he or she fills the caseload form and uploads the form to a central database.
Depending on the nature of the case reported, an SMS pack with information on what action to take is sent to the user. For example, if it’s a sexual abuse case, the information pack will remind the user of how to preserve evidence by e.g. not washing the child. After a case has been uploaded, the children’s department designated persona (Sub-county Children’s Officer – SCCO) receives an SMS notification to verify the reported case. Upon verification, an SMS notification with the action taken by the SCCO is sent back to the user who reported the case.
If the reported case was of a nature requiring the attention of police or hospital such as sexual abuse cases, a summary of the reported case is sent to County level police office, hospital, and Department of Public Prosecutor (DPP), for necessary action towards that case.
The system makes use of SMS triggers to escalate whenever a case is not updated within a set duration of time. This continues until the case is closed by an authorized person with an appropriate explanation. Whenever an update is done on the case by either the police, hospital, DPP, or SCCO, an SMS with an updated summary is sent to the user who reported the case. This ensures the user (CPV/CHW) is always in the know whenever there is an update and can inform the parents or guardians of the case progress.
The reporting features on the web portal for data visualization are used for analysis and drawing insights from the captured data.
Due to its easy reporting and comprehensive feedback loop, this initiative has strengthened child protection structures, and procedures at family, school, community, and duty bearer (government) level.
The fact that it relies on existing community-based child protection structures, boosts the accountability mechanisms in the child protection processes. The use of a mobile app for reporting leverages Kenya’s fast-growing mobile technology penetration, to support the County’s Children Department to have an effective and efficient child protection system.
The model used to implement VuruguMapper is easily replicable across other counties in Kenya.
This year 2020, VuruguMapper was taken up by the Department of Children Services (DCS) nationally with the intent to roll out its use across all the 47 counties. DSC saw value in VuruguMapper especially in ease of case reporting at the community level. VuruguMapper was therefore integrated into the national Child Protection Management Information System (CPMIS) which consolidates all reported child abuse cases at a national level.
Going forward, VuruguMapper forms the next-generation platform for collecting data on the wellbeing of children in Kenya in general. In addition to child protection reporting, Vurugumapper will be used to collect data on the impact of Covid-19 on children. The opportunities for improving the wellbeing of children with more comprehensive, timely, and reliable reporting in Kenya and other African countries are endless.
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