The Childhood organization founded by Queen Silvia of Sweden

H.M. Queen Silvia of Sweden founded World Childhood Foundation in 1999. Childhood’s vision is that all children should have a childhood free from sexual abuse and exploitation. Every child should have the right to a safe childhood.

We might take for granted that children grow up in a safe surrounding, but unfortunately, this is not at all the case. The mission of World Childhood Foundation which Queen Silvia of Sweden founded in 1999 is to inspire, promote and develop solutions that can stop sexual abuse and exploitation of children all over the world.

Sexual abuse of children is very often, if not always, a difficult topic to talk about. Children who have been exposed to sexual abuse, very seldom want to tell anybody about their experience, as they mostly feel too ashamed.

World Childhood Foundation puts a special focus on girls’ exploitation, but there are also many underage boys who are affected.

Queen Silvia of Sweden has been a pioneer when it comes to putting a face on this sensitive topic. She has never hesitated to talk about this topic on several conferences and for probably shocked many participants with her outspokenness.

On March 6, 2024, Mr. Joel Bergstrom, the Manager of the World Childhood Foundation gave a presentation at the Swedish embassy to which the Swedish Women’s Educational Association, SWEA Bangkok was invited.

On March 6, 2024, Mr. Joel Bergstrom, the Manager of the World Childhood Foundation gave a presentation at the Swedish embassy to which the Swedish Women’s Educational Association, SWEA Bangkok was invited.

There are many countries, where so called sex tourism with children involved, remains a problem. Often Thailand, Philippines and some South American countries are mentioned, but sexual abuse also exists in Europe, of course well hidden.

In Thailand, World Childhood Foundation is working to protect children from abuse online through partnerships with “The hug project”, based in Chiang Mai. Childhood, as the organization is often simply called, also works on research to shed light on so called “Self-generated sexual material” where children themselves have taken the photo or video that later falls in the wrong hands.

A major priority for Childhood in Thailand is also to support the shift away from residential care/orphanages that is a substantial problem in Thailand. At the moment, we know that there are more than 120 000 children in orphanages in Thailand, but also that more than 80% actually have at least one parent alive. The vast majority of these orphanages are not registered and are supported with donations from other countries.

With support, the vast majority of these children could stay with their families rather than being placed in orphanages. Through support to the “Alternative Care Thailand coalition” and organizations such as “One Sky Foundation”, “Parenting for lifelong health”, “Step Ahead”, “Development Foundation” and several others, Childhood is working to develop alternatives to placement in orphanages and trying to ensure that all children in Thailand can grow up in safe and loving families.

Childhood has its main office in Sweden, but the organization is present in approximately 13-14 countries today.
Childhood has for many years been working in eastern Europe including Russia and Ukraine. After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Childhood has had to stop working in Russia, but has instead increased efforts to support and protect children in Ukraine.

Childhood has previously also worked in Nepal, Philippines and China, but are at the moment focusing efforts in Asia on Thailand and Cambodia.

The organization is financially supported by major companies in Sweden, such as Handelsbanken, Oriflame, the Postcode lottery and many more.

One project in Sweden, which Joel Bergstrom mentioned during his presentation in Bangkok, is called “Maskrosbarn” (Dandelion children). This was started by two teenage girls almost 20 years ago. Today they employ around 40 staff and work directly with Swedish municipalities to protect children from violence and abuse.
Very often, you will find the perpetrator within the families.

This hard-working organization gets support from Childhood and can focus on supporting children who are victims of child abuse.

Today the number of children, who have experienced abuse online, is growing. Recent research indicates that more than 45 million photos and videos are distributed online in one year, and that there is a strong yearly increase. The trauma resulting from documented abuse that is spread online can even be greater than other forms of abuse.

The police, with help of other authorities, are trying to do their best to track the photos and take them down, but it mostly takes a lot of time, time that causes catastrophic results in many cases. It is hard to believe that one child out of four in Sweden, have been exploited to sex abuse.

In Thailand, 25% of the children don’t live with their parents. Many of them live with grandparents in Isaan and their parents work somewhere else. Since many of these children lack access to a safe and trusted adult, there can be increased risk for abuse and ending up in high-risk situations.

In terms of perpetrators, Joel Bergstrom said that it is important to remember that the stereotypical offender – the older white man visiting Thailand to abuse children – does not represent reality. Offenders come from all countries, are of all ages and often have different motivations and background. The one you would least suspect to abuse young girls can be easily the worst.

When you teach in the international schools in Thailand, you are obliged to take part in security conferences organized by the schools. You will learn how to give attention to a student’s behavior, to notice if the student shows bruises, seems depressed or other details that are uncommon.

Everyone shares responsibility to protect children and make sure that they have someone to talk to if something happens.

When it comes to Thai students, parents sometimes use corporal punishment which can be explained as local culture and that this is nothing to react to. But this is changing and violence against children is less accepted also in Thailand compared to just a few decades ago.

If a parent or teacher slap a child in Sweden, the child can call a special phone number and report the parent or whoever it might have been.

Childhood is working closely with organizations like “Prevent it”, “Net Clean” and “Stella Polaris”, organizations who work to give children a safe appearance online.

It is of big importance that parents and teachers keep an eye on children’s/student’s online habits. We can’t do enough to try to keep them safe and we have to keep in mind, that the children of today start using iPads, mobile phones and computers at a very young age.

To end this month’s “Agneta’s World” column  I will use the sentence Queen Silvia often says;

“I have founded an organization to protect children from sexual abuse, but it is my biggest wish to be able to put it down”!

Let’s hope that Queen Silva’s wish one day will be fulfilled.




About Agneta de Bekassy

Author at ScandAsia and blogger on other websites as well. Swedish influencer in Bangkok

View all posts by Agneta de Bekassy

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