BRIEF intro of Desiree: Assistant Professor of Children at Risk at Fuller Seminary, Pasadena, CA, USA 9 years as a children’s pastor in the U.S. Research on churches and ministries doing wholistic ministry with children and youth, especially girls This dialogue session is focused on a discussion about how we can empower children as full participants in the church and as ambassadors for Jesus Christ. As we begin our conversation, we want to spend just a few minutes thinking about what we mean when we say we want to “empower” children. In the “Empowering Children” action group of the Global Children’s Forum, we have spent quite a bit of time talking about this, but we would like to hear first what YOU all think! (NEXT SLIDE)
Let’s take just a few minutes to get everyone’s ideas about what the term “empowering children” means to you and in your context. Because we want to focus more on how we can put this into action, we won’t spend a lot of time debating the terminology, but we do want everyone to have the opportunity to express their ideas about what this might mean. We need to quickly make groups of X number of people, assign one person to be the recorder for the group, and on a large sheet of paper write your answers to this question. Remember that this is a brainstorm so there isn’t time to debate or discuss each idea. Rather, just list them quickly and try to get everyone’s ideas down. We will transfer all of these ideas into a record of our dialouge session that will be available online, and this will contribute to our continuing understanding of what we mean by “empowering” children.
Link for full text of UNCRC (in several languages): http://www.unicef.org/crc/ Link for UNCRC in child-friendly language: http://www.tigweb.org/images/tiged/docs/activities/27.pdf
“ Participation is a multifaceted concept. It is about children’s activity and agency being recognized; about children being treated with dignity and respect; about them being entitled to express their feelings, beliefs and ideas; about being listened to and about their voices being heard. (Montgomery 2003, 236). Montgomery, Heather, Rachel Burr, and Martin Woodhead, eds. 2003. Changing Childhoods: Local and Global . Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd in association with The Open University.
It is about children being consulted on matters that affect them, and being given adequate information to be able to form an opinion. It is also about children making choices and influencing decisions, contributing to the understanding and solution of social issues” (Montgomery 2003, 236). Montgomery, Heather, Rachel Burr, and Martin Woodhead, eds. 2003. Changing Childhoods: Local and Global . Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd in association with The Open University.
Source: http://www.griffith.edu.au/centre/urp/MiscDocs/sarkissian.pdf based on Hart, 1997 There are many levels and types of youth participation. Hart’s ‘Ladder of Participation’ for example (adapted from Hart 1992) outlines the following levels of participation 1. Youth-initiated, shared decisions with adults. Young people have the ideas, set up the project, and invite adults to join them in making decisions. 2. Youth-initiated and directed Young people have the initial idea and decide how the project is to be carried out. Adults are available but do not take charge. 3. Adult-initiated, shared decisions with young people Adults have the initial idea but young people are involved in every step of the planning and implementation. Their views are not only considered but they are also involved in making the decisions. 4. Consulted and informed The project is designed and run by adults, but young people are consulted. They have a full understanding of the process and their opinions are taken seriously. 5. Assigned but informed Adults decide on the project but young people volunteer for it. Young people understand the project and know who decided they should be involved and why. Adults respect their views.
Protagonismo infantil has become a prominent term for what some would describe as child empowerment in Latin America and beyond. The term is much more common in Latin America, but can also be found in use in different regions as well. Within Latin American childcare organizations there have been recent discussions about this concept. The term, while unfamiliar to the English reader is gaining ground in Latin American fields among academics and practitioners alike. Protagonismo infantil is a Spanish term that is difficult to translate into the English language. In some cases the word infantil is substituted by the words de la niñez (of the child or children) in order to emphasize the idea that it is children that are the focus and not infants. The term is specifically defined as “used in Latin America [and] implies for adults (and their institutions) to respect and support children as equal and essential partners in the organizing of their lives” (Liebel, Overwien, and Recknagel 2001, 380). This concept has long been used within liberation movements. In some circles there is a direct link to the basic ecclesial communities (BECs) in Latin America. According to working children’s advocate Manfred Liebel, The discourse over children’s protagonism draws from the popular protagonism movement that actively fought for liberation and better life conditions for excluded and exploited population groups in Latin America (e.g., people without land, inhabitants of poor urban neighborhoods, minorities, black and indigenous majorities, and the like). The concept of protagonism is considered a criticism and alternative to the concepts of ‘paternalists’ and ‘developmentists’ (based on the so-called ‘modernization theory’) that see the poor and ethnic minorities as underdeveloped people who are uncivilized and culturally backward. As with popular protagonism, which underlines the sovereignty and creativity of these classes and people, children’s protagonism increases awareness of young people’s capabilities and demands their independent and influential role in society (2007, 62). In perceiving an oppressed group (or person) as protagonist, there is an understanding that they are the central political and/or social actor of a movement. In the following discussion, children and adolescents are perceived as the political and/or social actors who transform their own social environment. Activist and former Priest, Alejandro Cussiánovich has written extensively on the issue. He lists the following as essential elements contained in the concept: From birth, children explore the world: this is a crucial anthropological factor pointing to their active role (children are not ‘passive’ or ‘objects of’). Children respond spontaneously to the exclusion and denial of their subjectivity and dignity by coming together with other children. Adulthood itself is undermined by the crises in the workings and authority of traditional institutions in the area of education and control of children, especially the family and school. The experience and growing number of working children, their contribution to survival, makes them feel useful, capable, productive and responsible (2001, 166). Protagonismo infantil provides a helpful understanding as we explore the issues of empowerment and urban mission structures caring for street children. The following components are considered significant contributors to protagonismo infantil : “Participation, representation, projection, solidarity, self-reflection or identity, autonomy and continuity” (Cussiánovich 2001, 166). So, from the perspective of Cussiánovich, protagonismo takes on a meta-category with several key components that are essential to its very existence. This is not to say that the term is not translatable. When it is translated into English it is generally translated as child protagonism. It will be noted that I sometimes use the terms child protagonism and child protagonist in English especially in the final sections of the research. I continue to use the word as it is used most commonly in Latin American literature as protagonismo infantil . El Diccionario Real Academia Española defines infancia as the “ período de la vida humana desde que se nace hasta la pubertad ” (period of human life from birth to puberty) (Real Academia Española 2004) (Translation mine). Child protagonism reflects the idea that children are active and not passive participants controlled by determining circumstances (James and Prout 1997, 4, 8).
Emphasize that rights ARE important, but as Christians we need to go a step further and understand this from the perspective of the kingdom and how children can be empowered to serve!! From Wendy: I'd point out that 'empowering' as a Kingdom concept is not about rights but about service. It's about helping kids to be sure that they can and do make a difference. It's about kids following Jesus, filled with hope and transforming their families and communities. (I'm all for children's rights, but biblically, 'power' is demonstrated in weakness, sacrifice etc). So what's our role: sometimes it's creating experiences/platforms for kids that will help them to be part of building the Kingdom where they are. Ideally, it should be about building on the experiences, ideas and questions that they bring - and that means that we have to give them 'permission' to bring them: to be 'empowerers' not 'dampeners'. Sometimes It's in the experience that they will glimpse the Kingdom - the possibilities of restored and renewed creation and relationships. It's in the experience that Kingdom values are not only being outwardly expressed (by the kids) but being inwardly nurtured as a compass for life. And it's about staying authentic: we want children to be children not to be mini-adults, or to be fulfilling an adult agenda. And it's about being real with kids - person to person not adult to child in a 'downward' direction - because we never know the effect that a conversation, an encouraging comment, a 'get alongside you' activity will have on the child in 1 day, 1 month, 1 year.....
As part of the overall philosophy of ministry within the Early Encounter strategy in Cochabamba, Bolivia, child empowerment plays an important role. There are currently twenty-three projects involved in the city-wide strategy with over 1,200 children being cared for through a variety of child-care programs. All of the children involved in the Early Encounter choose through a democratic election process two children from their project they wish to have represent them as ambassadors. The ambassadors are elected to help represent and speak up for the children in each project. Once a year the children in each of the projects choose from among their own peers two representatives per project. Anonymous voting slips are deposited into an elections box and tallied. Those who are elected become the ambassadors. In addition, the children elect from their own group of ambassadors a board that will develop the annual plans and strategies for what they hope to accomplish during the year. Monthly meetings are carried out by the ambassadors and are organized with the help of an adult facilitator who provides training and general orientation for the children. The ambassadors have represented their projects before governmental bodies, professional athletic departments as well as churches and other organizations. The ambassadors not only represent their projects but also develop community outreach ministries in which they participate on issues such as child abuse, HIV/AIDS prevention and food disbursement programs. The benefits from the program are numerous. Not only do individual ambassadors grow in their own leadership and confidence as they represent their projects, but they also grow in their own understanding of their participation in the kingdom of God. No longer do they perceive themselves as victims in need of help, but they are encouraged to look to the needs of others. Even though there is not space for all children involved in the projects to become ambassadors, all the children still learn a valuable lesson. When children choose their ambassadors and leaders they learn to become responsible for the decisions they are making. In addition, children are encouraged to be part of the decision making process with their ambassadors and thus they too learn leadership principles and gain confidence in their own decision-making process. One of the significant achievements that has been identified is the increased role of children in helping to establish plans and strategies for the Early Encounter project. No longer are children just viewed as passive recipients, but they are now perceived by adult leaders, pastors and other children as leaders. Pastors and other local leaders now look to children in many matters that affect the direction of the work in Bolivia. As a result, they have children that are confident in their own leadership abilities and frequently have programs that are contextual to the needs of other children and youth.
Children who are elected leaders and ambassadors in the Early Encounter project in Cochabamba, Bolivia have for several years now been involved in the “ buen trato ” campaign that is currently making its rounds in Latin America. The campaign focuses on preventing child abuse by holding annual child abuse awareness campaigns. In the case of Bolivia and elsewhere, the children themselves, led by the ambassadors have organized and are key actors in carrying out the campaign. In many cases, children who have been abused themselves are raising awareness in public about the need to treat children with dignity. In preparing for the implementation of the campaign, children are trained in techniques for establishing a “ buen trato ” campaign in their area. The original training session is facilitated by an adult leader with assistance from other children and youth who in previous years have completed the training. Upon finishing the training program, the ambassadors and other child leaders in turn train the children that they help to represent. In many cases these might be other children that live in a residential center for abandoned children or a day outreach for street workers. The child ambassadors and leaders are free to add their own creative touch to the training program which they call “ replicas .” In many cases the children will add games or other activities to the schedule. These additional activities are developed by the children in pre-training event meetings. After all the children are trained (nearly 900 children in total), plans are made to launch the campaign in a public square. Children are consulted during the planning phase and in many cases help to direct the campaign. Adult leaders help with facilitating the event, but it is the children that are the active participants in symbolically vaccinating adults against child abuse. Children divide themselves up into groups and in the company of their guardians, stop people on the street to talk about the importance of treating children with respect and dignity. Adults who are symbolically vaccinated fill out a card and are given a piece of candy in recognition of their commitment to care for children. The advantage to having children lead both the training and implementation of the campaign is that they not only take ownership in the campaign, but they are ideally in the best place to teach adults about child abuse. Child participation in activities such as the “ buen trato ” campaign, when guided by sensitive adult leaders can foster healthy environments where children can grow and mature in a way that is consistent with our biblical mandate to care for children in difficult situations.
There were tears in the eyes of the local dairy owners as team members sanded and painted over the graffiti-covered wall, replacing it with a lovely mural. “They have planted seeds of God’s love and hope in our community.” Slide from Wendy Strachan
While we were working and filling the skip bins with rubbish, a group of kids came up to me and starting asking, ‘Why are you so nice?’ so I was able to tell them why we wanted to help, and share Jesus with them. Slide from Wendy Strachan
Slide from Wendy Strachan
Today a young man in Uganda influences a new generation of young leaders to share the Gospel and transform their community because when he was 9 and first walked into a church an elderly lady smiled and asked him to play the drums... and invited him to come back each week and play the drums. Empowering can be that simple – and have that kind of effect. Slide from Wendy Strachan
In Madagascar the tree-planting grew out of a sports and games strategy) where kids were encouraged to engage in a ‘compassion’ (community service) project. (Desiree we don’t mention the term ‘KidsGames’ because of issues around restricted countries Slide from Wendy Strachan
Slide from Wendy Strachan
These are probably older teenagers and they were at a camp where people with agricultural expertise came to help them – I have v little info except that they teamed with govt departments who paid for the trees! that Scripture Union Director’s comment ‘ Just show the youth a good example they will go very far in transforming communities’ (I’m sure he says it better in French!) Slide from Wendy Strachan
This is a finished school garden in Mada. Slide from Wendy Strachan
IT’S TIME to Empower children as Agents of Mission
IT’S TIME to Empower children as Agents of Mission
“Empowering” Children If our desire is to “empower” children, what do we mean by this term?
Group Brainstorm• What does “empowering children” mean to you and in your context?• Brainstorm your answers to this question – List all ideas – No judgment or discussion – Give everyone a chance to share an idea
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child “States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.” --Article 12
Child Participation…• children’s activity and agency being recognized• children being treated with dignity and respect• being entitled to express their feelings, beliefs and ideas• being listened to and their voices being heard
Child Participation…• being consulted on matters that affect them• given adequate information to be able to form an opinion• children making choices and influencing decisions• contributing to the understanding and solution of social issues
Latin America: “Protagonismo Infantil”Greg W. Burch
As Christians…“ ‘Empowering‘ as a Kingdom concept is notabout rights but about service. Its abouthelping kids to be sure that they can and domake a difference. Its about kids followingJesus, filled with hope and transforming theirfamilies and communities.” Wendy Strachan, Scripture Union
Discussion:What does ‘empowering children’ look likein your context?How is empowerment NOT happening inyour context?If ‘children should be seen and not heard’ iscommon thinking within faith communities,what are the beginning steps to bring aboutchange?