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Creating the evidence base to tackle child abuse in Pakistan

Dr Samina Karim, lecturer in Social Work from the University of Bradford, is exploring how different professions respond to the challenge of child abuse in Pakistan.

Using a university grant provided through Research England QR GCRF support from the University, she has conducted focus groups with over 300 participants from ten different professions, discussing what they understand of child abuse, their attitudes to it and their professional practice.

Child abuse is now seen as one of the most important challenges facing Pakistan, following high profile cases in recent years, including the rape and murder of six-year-old Zainab Ansari in 2018.

It was this case that prompted Dr Karim to begin the research. “Child abuse happens in all societies, but it’s now finally being talked about in Pakistan after many years of being a taboo subject,” she said. “However, there is very little research on the issue, so policy makers don’t have the academic findings on which to base their decisions. Coming from a Pakistani British background, and with a PhD in historic child abuse, I realised I could help fill that gap.”

Portrait photograph of Samina Karim

Samina Karim

Working with representatives from Pakistan, she recruited participants from key groups including religious scholars, teachers from state schools, female community health workers, medical hospital staff, special educational needs teachers, police, lawyers, community sports professionals, media professionals and religious minorities.

Each participant completed a questionnaire which captured their knowledge and attitudes towards child abuse and how this in turn was reflected within their professional practice. The groups then discussed the challenges they faced in their profession and what potential solutions there might be.

“We wanted to get a range of views to reflect the challenges which are present in Pakistan,” explained Dr Karim. “Each profession has their own ideas of the key challenges which are present, and which children are considered to be most at risk.”

She is currently analysing the data collected through the research, with a view to publication and to identifying where further research could have the most impact. She has already made links with social work and social science researchers from the University of Punjab in Lahore and SZABIST University in Islamabad with whom she hopes to develop a joint funding bid.

“Pakistan is in a transitional stage of reform and we want to see where our research could best help to inform either changes in the law or in professional guidelines,” she said. “But wherever we choose to focus, the next stage of research must include representation from victims, to ensure their perspective is being reflected within developments.”

Samina's staff profile.

Samina presenting to a group in pakistan
Samina stood pointing to banner with arms up in pakistan

This work was funded through the Research England Quality-Related (QR) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) allocation to support research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.

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