Ashoka Fellow
South Africa,
Fellow Since 2004
Operation Bobbi Bear


This profile was prepared when Jackie Branfield was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
In recent years, South Africa has witnessed an alarming increase in the reported cases of sexual abuse of children—and there are countless more that go unreported. Recognizing that children have no safe way to express their experience, given the social taboos around discussing bodies, Jackie came up with an answer: she designed a simple stuffed toy called “Bobbi Bear.” At the point of rescue, the Bobbi Bear is combined with counseling methods to target and obtain forensic evidence in a quick and non-threatening manner. This enables law enforcement officials to gather consistent facts for the legal case and also helps to determine whether or not the child is at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS without causing any unnecessary psychological stress to the child.
Now when an abused child needs to tell law enforcement officials exactly what happened to them for the legal record, he or she has a teddy bear to use as a prop—providing consistent facts for a legal case and avoiding unnecessary additional psychological stress for the child.
Jackie seeks to involve citizens—long silent and disempowered about the issue—to fight the growing trend of child abuse within their own communities. To this end, she is training volunteers to exercise their rights and demand that law enforcement officials adhere to the first law in the South African Children’s Charter of the Constitution: to protect children. To Jackie’s credit, the toy is becoming a recognized symbol; when police, nurses and court officials see a child holding a Bobbi Bear, they know that a citizen advocate is accompanying the child and demanding justice on his or her behalf.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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