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CISWH and BUSSW Professors Identify New Violence Prevention Strategies for Children in South Africa

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Photo courtesy of Diego Delso,, License CC-BY-SA

A recent UNICEF report sheds light on an unspoken reality—approximately 300 million young children worldwide regularly face violent discipline by their caregivers, a serious infringement of their human rights. CISWH faculty affiliates and Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW) Profs. Margaret Lombe and Lenette Azzi-Lessing collaborated with Dr. Shanaaz Mathews and Lizette Berry of the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town to address this global health problem and identify new and promising violence prevention strategies. This effort stems from a one year University-Community Partnerships research grant from the Institute for Early Childhood Well-Being at Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

In a new wide-ranging review, the team, which includes Linda Biersteker, a senior research associate at the Children’s Institute, and Leigh Morrison, director of True North, shares how they developed an innovative, evidence-based, and community-driven violence prevention project in South Africa to further inform the anti-violence efforts of policy makers, practitioners, and other researchers in low and middle income countries. The project included:

  • An expert panel where practitioners and researchers from LMICs were able to share their perspectives.
  • Three community gatherings in Vrygrond, South Africa to elicit residents’ perspectives on key risk  factors, existing resources, and approaches that hold promise for preventing violence against young children in their community.
  • A concluding workshop to integrate learnings from the literature review and the expertise of researchers, practitioners, and community residents, as well as recommendations for next steps. 

The completion of the grant-funded project reveals the complex nature of addressing violence against children, rejecting the idea of “one size fits all” program models. Successful interventions include parent and caregiver support, gender transformative programs, and initiatives supporting preschool teachers. The project review underscores the need for longer, more intensive interventions, and the mainstreaming of programs through large scale government programs to reach vulnerable populations. 

Now that the project has been completed, the team has shifted their attention to sharing their findings globally. Additionally, Profs. Lombe and Azzi-Lessing are collaborating with the current leadership of the Children’s Institute to explore opportunities for developing an innovative, community-engaged demonstration project aimed toward violence prevention. 

Read the full report here.