Strengthening participatory practice with children and young people affected by sexual violence

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About the OVUN

Last updated: Thu 11, 2020

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What is the OVUN?

The ‘Our Voices University Network: children challenging sexual violence’ (OVUN) is a global network of multi-disciplinary researchers from academia and (I)NGOs who are committed to ethical, child-centred research to improve prevention and response efforts for children and young people impacted by child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The network was initiated in 2019 by Professor Jenny Pearce based at the, International Centre: researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking, University of Bedfordshire in the UK. The initial one-year pilot of the network was funded by Oak Foundation and Tides Foundation. Forty-two universities were involved in the pilot stage and 13 academics expressed an interest in joining the leadership group to develop future network activities. For more details on the pilot, and resources developed, visit our resources page

In 2020, the OVUN received a further three years of funding as part of the Our Voices III project from Oak Foundation to further develop the network.

How will the OVUN work?

The leadership group of the OVUN consists of researchers based in India, South Africa, the Kingdom of Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Italy, Greece, Ireland, the UK and the USA. Each member of the leadership group, together with researchers from the University of Bedfordshire, will be invited to be involved in setting up and supporting a taskforce made up of OVUN members. This will create supportive, reflective communities for knowledge exchange across subject areas and country contexts.

Each taskforce, through consultation, will develop a plan of activities for the three years to support knowledge exchange, capture learning and promote ethical participatory child-centred research.

Proposed taskforces

In initial discussions with the leadership group, six potential taskforces were identified each focusing on a specific area of interest.

    1. Legislation: focused on preventing, and protecting children from sexual violence.

    2. Young people’s voices: understanding children and young people’s own perceptions of sexual violence and of their participation in recovery and reintegration; considering ethical challenges to the (in)visibility and stigma connected to sexual violence against children; and training children and young people as researchers.

    3. Cultural competence: understanding the cultural context for the use of ethical guidelines, tools and models of working; developing cultural competence in developing and applying ethical principles. Developing long term, financially sustainable work with those impacted at a local level, engaging with questions of definition of ‘indigenous populations and indigenous learning’.

    4. Impact of place: how to identify and address the impact of ‘location’ and ‘place’: sexual violence on campuses, in schools, in specific community places. Addressing violence against children including corporal punishment and interfamilial violence.

    5. Approaches: the use of ‘empathy’ as a way of challenging sexual violence, particularly in education; interdisciplinary working: sharing data, learning from different disciplinary approaches, maintaining standards.

    6. Guidelines, standards and tools: developing standards for practice e.g. guidelines for doing ethical research with children; standards for research involving children and young people; toolkits and resources to aid researchers.

Get involved

If you are interested in joining the OVUN, or would like to be kept up to date with the activities of the OVUN, please email Claire Soares at claire.soares@beds.ac.uk.