After a devastating tsunami in 2004, survivors had many needs – one that emerged in Sri Lanka was the need for child protection.

Physical, sexual, psychological, and gender-based violence are problems all around the world – and risk of violence increases following a disaster. In Sri Lanka, studies showed that violence affects girls and boys of all ages and backgrounds, and that the human, economic, and community-development consequences were profound. Even after the disaster response, there is a need that remains to protect children from violence.
Protecting children from violence through education in Sri Lanka
After the initial emergency response following the tsunami, the Canadian Red Cross began work with local governments and other organizations to identify how efforts could be strengthened as part of long-term programs within communities that would help protect children. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, local organizations and PLAN Sri Lanka, child protection systems and protocols were strengthened in schools.

There are several resources which were developed to help address the issue of violence that are suitable for children of a variety of ages. For children ages 5-9, the Be Safe! resource package aids teachers to address physical, sexual, and family violence with their students, and how to conduct awareness sessions with parents. Asha the Puppet makes an appearance to help teachers deliver the message in a child-friendly way that helps kids feel more comfortable interacting.

This program teaches kids important lessons with real-life impacts. Jayantha Janapriya is a Career Guidance Officer with the Ministry of Education in the Southern Province of Sri Lanka, he is also a child protection master trainer who has been using the Be Safe! program for years. 

Jayantha noted that this is not always the easiest topic to talk about, "At first I was hesitant to discuss the topics, however the novel method used during the training by the Red Cross allowed us to reach out to other teachers.”

The program means that there are children who are experiencing violence who are able to speak up and teachers are able to respond. Jayantha shared a story about an eight-year-old girl who had just completed the Be Safe! training, she, "walked up to the teacher and said that the school security guard had tried touching her in an unsafe and sexual way as she waited by herself for the school bus. The teacher was able to take prompt action, get help, and report the problem to local authorities. If it wasn’t for the Be Safe! project, I wonder what would have happened to that girl."

Master trainers like Jayantha are helping to train teachers to deliver these lessons across Sri Lanka. Nadeeja Abeydheera helps train the master trainers and works with the Ministry of Education and other government partners to not only train the trainers, but also offer mentorship to them and monitor their work. "Most teachers would openly state that more than anything, they are thankful for the Be Safe! program because it has changed their own attitudes about abuse in general and corporal punishment in particular. “She said.

So far, this programming has reached over 335,000 people and 23% of all schools in Sri Lanka. Recently, the success and results of this program were published in the Journal of Child Abuse & Neglect.