Nobs Mwanda

Ashoka Fellow
South Africa,
Fellow Since 2014


This profile was prepared when Nobs Mwanda was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
South Africa is faced with high levels of child abuse manifested through cases of child neglect, rape, domestic and other forms of related violence, earning it the disheartening nickname “the rape capital of the world”. It is commonly known that this is a very complex problem, with a multitude of underlying causes, especially social and economic. However, most attempts to solve this problem concentrate on dealing with the effects and results of the abuse, which, although necessary, does not solve the underlying problems that cause child abuse in the first place. Realizing that, Nobs created an organization called Community-based Prevention and Empowerment Strategies in South Africa (COPESSA), which uses community engagement and participatory strategies to identify specific social ills that fuel child abuse and thereby develops initiatives to address them.

COPESSA uses an Ecological Model, which deals with child abuse on four levels of attention: primary (making sure abuse does not happen); secondary (early detection and early response to stop further perpetration); tertiary (rehabilitation) and quaternary (care & support with further training for the care-givers). Each main target population in this model are, respectively: the child (at the centre), then the family, then the community and, finally, a the broader level, society at large. Each level therefore involves specific activities and projects that engage both the potential victims and perpetrators, including all stakeholders as part of the solution. Some of the projects that COPESSA has helped the community develop at primary prevention level (to bridge the social divide between men, women and children and provide income generation alternatives for economic empowerment) are: children safe Play Parks, an out-door community gym, a community library, community gardens, brick-making and craft projects, among many others. Each of these responds to specific needs identified within the community (eg. lack of safe spaces for children to play, illiteracy and lack of knowledge on child abuse, unemployment and financial insecurity) and the implementation is done by the beneficiaries themselves with the help of COPESSA. Further, COPESSA offers research, training and awareness programs at primary level; clinical and therapeutic support programs at secondary and tertiary levels and support& further education for the caregivers at quaternary level, which complement the model.

Since COPESSA started operations in 2004 in Soweto, it has engaged with 2,650 direct beneficiaries with primary level community development programs and 3,500 people with secondary and tertiary level programs, and a total of over 15,000 indirect beneficiaries. Nobs has worked with UNICEF and social development specialists from the University of Witwatersrand to develop communication and measurement tools to compile guidelines and best practices from the operation in Soweto and use them as a scaling strategy to other provinces in South Africa facing similar challenges.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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