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Putting Children First: Session 2.4.B Mike Wessells - Strengthening community-based child protection [24-Oct-17]

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Putting Children First: Identifying solutions and taking action to tackle poverty and inequality in Africa.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 23-25 October 2017

This three-day international conference aimed to engage policy makers, practitioners and researchers in identifying solutions for fighting child poverty and inequality in Africa, and in inspiring action towards change. The conference offered a platform for bridging divides across sectors, disciplines and policy, practice and research.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Putting Children First: Session 2.4.B Mike Wessells - Strengthening community-based child protection [24-Oct-17]

  1. 1. Strengthening Community-Based Child Protection for Vulnerable Children in Sierra Leone: Toward a Child Centered, Inclusive, Community Owned Approach Mike Wessells Columbia University & Inter-Agency Learning Initiative October 24, 2017 1
  2. 2. Acknowledgements  ESRC-DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation  Oak Foundation & an anonymous donor  The Inter-Agency Learning Initiative on Strengthening Community-Based Child Protection Mechanisms and Child Protection Systems  Sarah Lilley & Save the Children for coordinating the global Reference Group  UNICEF Sierra Leone  Key Sierra Leonean actors, especially David Lamin  Participating communities 2
  3. 3. Overview  Throughout Africa, child protection system strengthening is a high priority  Many efforts at system strengthening have been top-down, vested power in NGOs, and built limited participation and community ownership and low sustainability  Eurocentric approaches marginalize African culture, local strengths, and community resilience  Need to develop and test a different model of community driven action—participatory action research in Sierra Leone  System strengthening requires a mix of top-down, bottom- up, and middle-out approaches
  4. 4. Risks to Children  Armed conflict & mass displacement  Sexual abuse and exploitation  Disabilities  Violence--family, schools, community  Early marriage  Justice related issues  Living & working on the streets  Dangerous labor  Trafficking  Recruitment into armed forces and groups  Poverty, deprivations, discrimination, poor material conditions  HIV and AIDS
  5. 5. Community-Based Child Protection Mechanisms  Key components of a national child protection system; where children live and develop, where people live  NGO/UN focus: External agencies frequently organize Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) or other community mechanisms to monitor, respond to, mitigate, and prevent various forms of child abuse  Partnership approach, yet NGOs are in positions of power and take the key decisions  Expert driven, top-down, impositional approach  Children may be involved, but participation is typically limited, even tokenistic
  6. 6. Some Critical Questions  Are we listening to children and learning about their lived experiences?  Are we doing enough to enable children’s and adolescents’ agency and leadership?  Do top-down approaches build upon or marginalize existing mechanisms and local culture and processes?  How inclusive are top-down approaches? Do the poorest, most marginalized people engage in planning them, and do they use the CWCs?  How effective and sustainable are CWCs?  Can community led approaches do a better job of unlocking community creativity, enabling sustainability, and give space for community agency and action?
  7. 7. Case of Sierra Leone  Brutal, decade long war  Many Child Welfare Committees established  2007—Child Rights Act mandated CWC in each village: Top down approach  Implementation focused on training committee members and on didactic child rights education  Alternate, collaborative & community led aproach - Inter-Agency research approach—with Government, NGOs, UN, communities - Trained national researchers lived and worked in local communities, collecting data on the actual functioning of the child protection system
  8. 8. Intervention Cluster Comparison Cluster Defini on of Outcomes based on local views Ethnography on all 12 villages Iden fica on of 2 districts, 4 chiefdoms, 12 villages Bombali District Chiefdom A 3 villages Chiefdom B 3 villages Moyamba District Chiefdom C 3 villages Chiefdom D 3 villages Randomization of Chiefdom and 3 villages clusters to intervention or comparison group T1:Baseline data T2: Repeated data Intervention T3: Repeated data T1: Baseline data T2: Repeated Data No intervention T3: Repeated data Multi-Phase Action Research Design
  9. 9. Ethnographic Research: Local Views of Harms to Children ‘Most serious’ harms  Out of school children  Teen pregnancy out of wedlock  Heavy work  Maltreatment of children not living with their biological parents Additional harms  Child beating  Cruelty  Incest, rape, and sexual abuse  Neglect and bad parenting  Witchcraft  Abduction & ritual murder  Child rights
  10. 10. Typical Response Pathway for Teenage Pregnancy Girl misses period Girl tells mother Mother tells girl’s father Perpetrator identified Negotiation between families of the girl & the perpetrator OUTCOMES: Perpetrator’s family supports girl during pregnancy and pays for her education afterward Girl is obliged to marry the perpetrator
  11. 11. Disconnect Between Nonformal and Formal Supports for Children  Child Welfare Committees had been mandated by the Child Rights Act (2007), but - Most people did not mention or report through the CWCs - For over 90% of the cases of harms to children, people preferred to use traditional processes through the Chiefs  Even for crimes such as rape of a child, people were reluctant to report to police and state authorities  Main reasons related to distance to authorities, having to take time off from farming, doubts that action would be taken, culture
  12. 12. Implications 1. The Child Rights Act was not working. 2. A significant disconnect exists between the formal child protection system and community based child protection mechanisms. Prioritize the development of effective linkages between communities and the national child protection system. 3. We need to rethink the common practice of establishing child protection committees and groups that do not build on or intersect with existing community mechanisms. 4. The imposition of international concepts of child protection (e.g., ‘child rights’) has had harmful effects. Alternative, respectful approaches toward social transformation are necessary.
  13. 13. A Different Approach  Communities hold power & make key decisions  Cultural understandings, processes, and practices as resources  Outsiders as learners, facilitators, documentors  Respectful listening and learning  Feeding information back and inviting reflection  Reflection and mobilization as basis for community-driven action  Bottom-up approach to building linkages between community and the formal system  Problematizing ‘community’—attending more to issues of diversity and power
  14. 14. Enabling Inclusivity  Facilitators lived and worked in villages—trust, respect  Enabling an inclusive process of deciding which harm to children to address  Asked questions about ‘how can the community decide which issue to address?’  Helped to bring out different views and enable problem solving discussion  Mixture of ‘barray’ discussions and small group discussions, with outreach to marginalized people  Slow, respectful process of dialogue enabled people to process their differences and achieve workable agreements
  15. 15. Community-Driven Intervention  Six communities—three each in one Chiefdom of Bombali and Moyamba District, respectively  External, Sierra Leonean facilitators lived and worked in the villages  Diversity and inclusivity in planning/action: teenage girls, teenage boys, women, men, elders  Priority issue to address: teenage pregnancy  Chose to address it through family planning, sexual and reproductive health education, and life skills  Population based measures of children’s risk and well- being outcomes
  16. 16. Key Elements of the Intervention  Collective dialogue, awareness raising and negotiation— stimulating new appreciation of value of diversity  Inclusive decision-making, empowerment, and responsibility  Linkage of community with health services  Peer education  Use of culturally relevant media—song, drama  Child leadership and messaging—‘5920’  Inclusion and outreach—sub-groups, home visits  Parent-child discussions  Role modeling  Legitimation by authority
  17. 17. Promising Findings, Pre-Ebola  Reduced teenage pregnancy and sexual abuse  Increased access to and use of contraceptives  Increased intent of girls and their close friends to ask partners to use condoms  Stronger linkage of communities with the formal health system  Reduced school dropout  Girls say ‘No’ more often to unwanted sex  Parents and children discuss sex, pregnancy, and pregnancy prevention in a constructive manner  Spin off effects—addressing early marriage  Strong community ownership and motivation to continue the work without external support
  18. 18. Implications for Practitioners  Use elicitive, respectful methods in assessment  Learn about local power structure  Learn about and engage with natural helpers  Engage with people who are positioned differently  Encourage collective reflection, planning, and action regarding children’s issues  Enable child and youth agency and leadership  Rethink our role—from ‘expert’ to co-learner and facilitator  Document and learn from Do No Harm issues  Model and enable critical, reflective practice
  19. 19. Wider Impact  Revision of the national Child and Family Welfare Policy - balance and cooperation between formal and nonformal aspects of the national child protection system - family and community mechanisms at center - no new structures  Workshops with practitioner agencies  New mode of work by UNICEF—scaling up the community-driven approach  National Child Protection Committee support
  20. 20. Conclusion  Respect the importance of supporting both the nonformal and formal aspects of child protection systems and their alignment  Community-driven action is a platform for sustainable support for at-risk children and also for social transformation  Both diversity and inclusivity are vital components of change  Community-driven (bottom-up) strengthening of the child protection system is an effective complement to top-down approaches

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