Empowering Children, Transforming Communities: Save the Children’s Impactful Initiatives in China

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In an interview with Ms. Zhou Jie, Country Director of Save the Children in China, the China Development Brief (CDB) explores the organization’s impactful initiatives in child development. Save the Children, a renowned NGO with a century of experience, has been actively involved in projects across various provinces since the late 1980s, improving the lives of vulnerable children and communities through a child-centered approach and collaboration with local stakeholders.

CDB: Could you provide an overview of Save the Children’s initiatives in China, particularly focusing on child development and education, and the impact they have had on local communities?

Zhou Jie: Save the Children, founded in the UK in 1919, is a leading child-focused NGO with over a century of experience. Operating in 116 countries and regions worldwide, we are dedicated to ensuring every child has a better future. In China, we have been implementing projects since the late 1980s, covering provinces such as Yunnan, Sichuan, Henan, Hebei, Guangdong, Guangxi, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Shanghai.

Our work is guided by the principle of child-centeredness and child participation, focusing on vulnerable and marginalized children. We implement projects in areas such as child nutrition and health, protection, education, adolescent and young people’s employability skills and transition to job market, and disaster risk reduction. We also address the impact of climate change on children, integrating activities that strengthen children and their families’ adaptation to climate change. We collaborate closely with government departments, social organizations, communities, academic institutions, and businesses, sharing experiences, providing policy advice, and working to create an enabling and supporting environment for children.

CDB: What are some of the key challenges and obstacles you have encountered in your child protection work in China, and how has Save the Children addressed or overcome them?

Zhou Jie: Save the Children has a long history of child protection work in China, observing significant improvements. As China has developed, children’s needs have expanded to include addressing issues like family violence, psychological abuse, emotional neglect, child sexual abuse, bullying, and exposure to harmful online content.

We have faced challenges in addressing protection issues systematically and responding to evolving needs, given China’s large child population, including 71.09 million migrant children and 66.93 million left-behind children, influenced by economic development, local customs, and cultural beliefs.

To address these challenges, Save the Children has implemented several measures:

  • System Improvement: We follow the child protection system strengthening approach, under which we collaborate with government departments to implement child protection laws and policies, train child protection workforce, provide support and service in different context such as communities, schools and families, etc.
  • Collaboration: We work with various sectors including think tanks, experts, organizations, schools, and businesses to analyze child-related issues, develop solutions, and provide support. This ensures solutions are implemented and provides tangible support to children. We also engage parents and the public to promote and advocate for child protection.
  • Children’s Participation: We value and listen to children’s voices, especially those in disadvantaged situations, to accurately respond to their changing needs. We collect their feedback, organize activities for them, and encourage them to share their views. This engagement helps society understand children’s perspectives, mobilizes more social support, and ensures broader social actions effectively address all children’s needs.

CDB: Can you share a specific success story or project that highlights the importance of child protection efforts in China?

Zhou Jie: The Child-Friendly Justice Project aims to provide professional support for children experiencing sexual abuse and other violence, children in conflict with the law to uphold their rights. By supporting judicial and other government departments related to children, and by uniting workforces such as social work, legal aid and health, the project promotes “One Stop Center” model. The experience has been shared with over 100 One Stop Centers in Yunnan Province. The project also supports research on child-friendly judicial standards and national standards for juvenile justice social work services, providing experiences for a child-friendly judicial and protection system in China. The project advocates at local and national levels, participating in seminars and research on child protection laws, and sharing experiences on “One Stop Center” services, sexual abuse cases, and child-friendly judicial standards. This contributes to improving the national juvenile justice protection system.

CDB: How does Save the Children collaborate with local partners and communities to ensure sustainable and effective child protection programs?

Zhou Jie: Save the Children prioritizes localization in its global work, respecting local development stages and empowering local organizations to lead child-focused initiatives. When engaging with local partners, Save the Children emphasizes communication with key stakeholders, including government officials, social workers, community leaders, parents, and children. Project personnels are guided to engage in participatory decision-making, ensuring stakeholders have ownership of project plans. During implementation, Save the Children provides financial support and focuses on capacity building for local social organizations. This includes training on national laws, policy interpretation, organizational management, and child protection. Through targeted training, Save the Children enhances the professional capabilities of social organization personnel to support children effectively. To support social organizations in delivering child protection services, Save the Children collaborates with government departments, universities, and think tanks to monitor, evaluate, and share successful practices and lessons learned through case studies, guidelines, publications, and policy recommendations. This ensures that project outcomes are shared widely, enhancing service quality and policy development.

CDB: In your opinion, what more can be done at the local and national levels to improve child protection policies and practices in China?

Zhou Jie: In 2023, China introduced new laws and regulations to promote child-friendly policies and enhance care for left-behind and vulnerable rural children. This includes improving mental health services. The national child protection system is now focused on improving quality, efficiency, and overall development.

In this context, we advocate that relevant departments fully implement the revised “Law on the Protection of Minors,” focusing on online and family protection. Establishing an effective child protection network across various fields is crucial to identify, report, and respond to protection risks. Additionally, we emphasize the importance of strengthening training for child protection teams, including professional child protection social workers, to ensure effective child protection.

Save the Children is a leading force in addressing diverse child needs, including online protection and social-emotional development. Through establishing comprehensive child protection and development sites and enhancing the professionalism of child service teams, Save the Children aims to develop a systematic approach aligned with China’s development, improving child protection policies and ensuring timely and effective support for all children.

CDB: How do you see the future of child development and education in China, and what role do you envision Save the Children playing in shaping that future?

Zhou Jie: With China’s continued development and the ongoing trend of declining birth rates, there are higher expectations and demands for the future of children in China. This includes a call for higher quality education and the promotion of children’s physical and mental well-being. However, children remain a relatively vulnerable group, susceptible to various forms of harm. Challenges such as unequal educational development, urban-rural disparities, regional variations, negative family environments, and excessive reliance on smartphones by children and adolescents need to be addressed. Social organizations play a crucial role in supporting children’s education and protection. Save the Children believe every child deserve a future so we respond to emerging children’s issues,  deliver innovative development programmes and ensure children’s voices are heard through our campaigning to build a better future for and with children. In China, Save the Children will continue collaborating with different stakeholders to achieve lasting change for children


In conclusion, Save the Children’s steadfast commitment to child development in China has led to tangible benefits for local communities. By fostering collaboration across sectors and maintaining a strong focus on the well-being of children, Save the Children continues to drive lasting, positive change for the future generations of China.

In Brief

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