Across the world, countless individuals are working around the clock to end violence against children, including children themselves. These inspiring people are the heart and soul of our movement, often working on the frontlines with limited resources.
As part of the Together to #ENDviolence global campaign, we are celebrating these individuals and the change they are helping to create. Through Q&A-style interviews, you will learn from practitioners, activists, researchers, policymakers, and children about their successes, their challenges, and what they think is needed to end violence for good.
Shaylyn Fahey, a 23-year-old medical student from the United States
On December 14, 2012, a small American town was rocked by a nearly unimaginable crime: a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 20 first-graders, six adults, and his mother before shooting himself.
Shaylyn Fahey was just 15 years old at the time – and eight years later, she is still trying to make sense of what her community was forced to live through. Instead of backing away, however, Shay threw herself even deeper into what she had experienced, leveraging her interests in neuroscience, psychology and health care to better understand the root causes of violence.
Part of this work was with the Avielle Foundation, an organisation established by Jen and Jeremy Richman after their daughter, 6-year-old Avielle, was killed in the shooting. In the years since, Shay has not only grappled with trauma from the 2012 massacre, but from the loss of Jeremy himself, who took his own life in March of 2019.
End Violence spoke to Shay, now 23, about her experiences living through these tragedies, her passion for violence prevention, and her plans for the future. Read on
Alice Welbourn, the creator of the Stepping Stones training package
Since its publication in 1995, the Stepping Stones training package has touched children, families and communities in over 100 countries across the globe. The woman at the heart of Stepping Stones is Dr Alice Welbourn, who wrote the training package two years after her own HIV diagnosis. Throughout her career, Welbourn had designed and implemented participatory programmes in communities across East and sub-Saharan Africa – and to help make sense of her own diagnosis, Welbourn decided to do what she does best: create a training package to help others just like her.
In the years since, Welbourn and her team have gone on a journey nearly as expansive as the reach of Stepping Stones itself. The package has been translated into dozens of languages. It has more recently been adapted to fit the priorities of children, particularly among those aged 5-14 years of age. And in 2016 the original version was wholly revised and updated to align it with the huge scientific advances that have taken place since the original publication. Importantly, Stepping Stones has taken on a life of its own through those that implement it – sparking adaptations that are sometimes met with success, and other times met with failure that brings important learnings.
End Violence spoke with Welbourn to learn about what she has experienced after more than 25 years on the Stepping Stones frontlines. Read on
Sarafina, an activist and World Vision Youth Leader from Ghana
For years, Sarafina has fought to end violence against women and children in Ghana. Sarafina has been witness to violence throughout her life: first, when her mother suffered domestic abuse in her home, and later, when child marriage forced her friends from the classroom.
To combat these realities faced by countless women and girls, Sarafina became a World Vision Young Leader and a member of her school’s child parliament. In both roles, she has become an outspoken activist against child marriage, violence against women, and other forms of abuse and exploitation. In the future, Sarafina hopes to continue this work for life, inspiring others and bringing real, sustainable change across Ghana. She hopes to become both a medical doctor and a lawyer – combatting violence against women and girls from both the individual and national levels.
End Violence spoke to Sarafina about her experiences as a youth activist and her hopes for women and girls in her community. Read on
Kamala Poudel, a survivor turned activist in Nepal
At the age of 5, Kamala Poudel lost her childhood. Sold to a trafficking ring by her stepfather, Poudel was forced from her home in Nepal to a brothel in India, joining the 50 other girls and women that are trafficked from Nepal to India every day.
Eventually, Poudel escaped from the brothel and slowly made her way back to Nepal. The journey home wasn’t easy: before she even hit her teenage years, Poudel had to work on the streets – nearly always in exploitative conditions – to get enough food to survive. Her difficult childhood, coupled with years of homelessness, sexual abuse and a 10-year prison sentence, left Poudel with severe mental health issues.
It wasn’t until meeting staff from KOSHISH, a Nepalese non-profit, that Poudel got the support she needed to recover and rebuild. About a year after accessing psychological and medical treatment through KOSHISH, Poudel began working for the organisation herself – and today, she is helping both children and adults through her role as a Program Officer.
End Violence spoke to Poudel about her experiences of abuse and recovery, along with the issues children face in Nepal today. Read on
Do you know someone who should be featured as an End Violence Champion? Nominate them here!