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Down to Zero

Millions of children worldwide are sexually exploited, both online and offline. And this number continues to grow. The Down to Zero Alliance is stepping up the fight against child sexual exploitation. We are committed to the protection of children and the prevention of sexual exploitation in twelve countries in Asia and Latin America. Terre des Hommes Netherlands (lead), Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia), Conexión, Defence for Children - Ecpat, Free A Girl and Plan International work together in the Down to Zero Alliance with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands to address the sexual exploitation of children.

Down to Zero

Down to Zero implements the programme Step Up the Fight Against Sexual Exploitation of Children (SUFASEC), that enables children and young people to defend their own rights, support communities to become safer and protective of their children against sexual exploitation, and helps governments to improve and implement related policies, laws and regulations. The Alliance also collaborates with the private sector, for example in the tourist industry. 
Under the SUFASEC programme, two initiatives specifically focus on child and youth participation: Youth Voices for Change and the VOICE project.

Step Up the Fight Against Sexual Exploitation of Children (SUFASEC)

Every child deserves a life free from sexual exploitation. Our mission with Down to Zero is to make this a reality, both online and offline. The aim of our programme Step Up the Fight Against Sexual Exploitation of Children (SUFASEC) is that children in all their diversity are better protected from sexual exploitation.

The Alliance works in twelve countries in Asia and Latin America to prevent and protect children from sexual exploitation: the Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Brasil, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. We do this together with children, youth, activists, parents, schools, governments, the private sector, and anyone who can make a difference.

Children and youth are the most important stakeholders. When they fall victim to sexual exploitation, the physical and mental impact can be long lasting. Children and youth are highly mobilised and active. However, they need to be more recognised and heard in society.

Youth Voices for Change

Youth Voices for Change is an initiative of the Down To Zero Alliance that seeks to prevent the sexual exploitation of children and youth by amplifying the voices of young leaders for change in Latin America and Asia.

The goal is to position young leaders as central agents of change, to improve child protection systems in Asia and Latin America through lobby & advocacy and capacity building from the local, regional, national and cross-border level to international level.

Youth Voice for Change is running in 10 countries across Asia and Latin America: Bolivia, Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand.

VOICE project

Worldwide, children are at high risk of online harm such as online sexual exploitation of children. Strong rules and regulations are needed to make sure the internet is a safe place where children can learn, connect and play. Currently, the Regulation to Prevent and Combat Child Sexual Abuse is proposed in the European Union which also contains rules about the online world to protect children. Unfortunately, children’s voices (and those of their caregivers) are being overlooked in the debate on online safety.

To fill the gap of overlooking children in the online safety debate, the VOICE project was initiated. VOICE stands for Values, Opinions, and Insights from Children (and Caregivers) about E-safety. We engage in collaborative, meaningful and outcome driven Focus Group Discussions (FGD) with children while concurrently surveying parents and caregivers in 15 countries across the EU (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania, Spain, The Netherlands), Asia (Bangladesh, Thailand and The Philippines) and Latin America (Bolivia and Brazil).

ECPAT International, Eurochild and Terre des Hommes Netherlands have joined forces for the VOICE project on behalf of the Down to Zero Alliance.

Read more about the VOICE project

Latest news

February 1st, 2024

The Global Research Agenda

On February 1 2024, the Terre des Hommes Netherlands Global Research Agenda was launched, which will guide our…

November 29th, 2023

Behind the Screens: Early Findings from the VOICE research

With the VOICE research we want to amplify children’s and caregivers’ views on how to build a safer internet f…

October 31st, 2023

Stop Online Child Sexual Exploitation

The Internet has become an active part of children’s lives, where they play, learn and socialise. Children con…

October 30th, 2023

“I cannot imagine myself going back to the same trade” - Vanessa’s story

Vanessa would frequent nightclubs with her friends. During this course of time, one of her friends introduced…

October 24th, 2023

Building Faith in the Judicial System

“I was afraid to go back to the house where my uncle lived”, said Inthira, a fifteen-year-old girl from Samut…

June 29th, 2023

Annual report 2022: concrete results for children

Thanks to the support of donors, in collaboration with partners and the commitment of volunteers and staff, Te…

September 20th, 2022

Building Back Better report

The number of children who fall victim to (online) sexual exploitation has increased worldwide. The system tha…

August 11th, 2022

8 Youth Advocates Groups from 8 Different Cities

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly increased child abuse and exploitation, in the Philippines specifically onli…

July 27th, 2022

Building Back Better overview

Worldwide, 1 to 2 million children are victims of sexual exploitation. A complex problem that requires a compr…

May 20th, 2022

Key findings from Down to Zero’s safety by design research

The internet is a blessing but at times comes with risks for children. The Down to Zero alliance researched Sa…

May 20th, 2022

Safety by design to keep children safe online

The internet provides a world of opportunity for children and has been a lifeline for many during the COVID-19…

May 10th, 2022

On the Other Side of a Call

Parunyu Kaitlatsame or Tai, is a recent graduate in Bangkok, Thailand. Graduating with a psychology degree, he…

Background

Sexual exploitation of children is a grave violation of children’s rights and affects millions of children and youth annually, regardless of gender. No region, country or child is immune, though there are several linked factors that affect their vulnerability. It impacts heavily and long lastingly on the physical, emotional and mental well-being of children and youth. It deprives them of establishing healthy (sexual) relationships and from developing to the best of their potential.

There are many factors that drive sexual exploitation of children. Harmful social norms and gender roles - toxic masculinity, victim-blaming, objectification of children and harmful religious and cultural practices - create and persist circumstances where use of children for sexual purposes is possible, permissible and tolerated. 

Similarly, social norms also persist within family units. Vulnerabilities to sexual exploitation – like being a child born into a marginalised family with little or no resources for survival – increase when parents/caregivers lack the insights or means to create a safe environment for their children at home.

The general public, the private sector and authorities silently condone or even facilitate its practice. Research shows that sexual exploitation of children is more likely to thrive in unstable environments where there is poverty and weak child protection systems. It is furthermore facilitated by inadequately enforced or distrusted legal environments.

Compounding factors that increase the vulnerability of children and youth to sexual exploitation include travel and tourism, access to and increasing use of new technologies and the internet, organised crime, climate change and humanitarian crises, and complex drivers including migration, substance abuse, and individual intersectional vulnerabilities such as disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Children have less means and often agency than adults to claim space and exercise civic, political and participation rights.

Youth Voices for Change

Youth Voices for Change is an initiative of the Down To Zero Alliance, with the goal of uniting voices and opening spaces for young people to speak out, question and share their messages to prevent the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents in Latin America and Asia.

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Objectives

The Step Up the Fight Against Sexual Exploitation of Children (SUFASEC) programme from the Down to Zero Alliance focuses on three main objectives:

Challenging social norms
Protective environments
Meaningful participation

What we do

The Down to Zero Alliance addresses the sexual exploitation of children by:

Enabling children and youth to defend their own rights
Helping communities to better protect their children from sexual exploitation
Improving and implementing relevant policies, laws and regulations in Asia and Latin America
Cooperating with the private sector

This is me

In a previous Down to Zero programme, photographer Marieke van der Velden engaged with children in Thailand. Child survivors of sexual exploitation expressed themselves in art. What do they look like when they draw themselves? Behind the safety of the mask, they shed light on themselves.

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Our results

The Down to Zero (DtZ) Alliance has been operational in preventing and stopping sexual exploitation of children since 2016. The DtZ 1.0 programme was implemented from 2016 to the end of 2020 in ten countries. The Voice for Change programme was implemented  from March 2020 to the end of June 2021 in five countries and the Building Back Better in Times of Covid-19 programme was implemented from May 2021 to May 2022 in twelve countries.

All programmes applied a holistic approach to address Sexual Exploitation of Children and worked with different stakeholders (children, parents and caretakers, community members, schools, governments, law enforcement officers and the private sector).

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