A central premise in how ChildFund functions is that we work in concert with young people to break the cycle of poverty. We listen to children and youth, taking what we learn from them and blending it with the best practices in the industry to create opportunities that address their challenges effectively and meaningfully.
When children and youth take ownership in processes that can lead to change in their communities, they get a strong taste of the kind of civic engagement and leadership that ChildFund seeks to encourage. Working this way means that young people themselves become resources rather than objects of programs. And what resources they are.
Some examples of how this can play out:
In Buwenge, a rural community in the Jinja region of Uganda, a long, straight stretch of road — the kind of road that begs drivers to floor it — runs in front of a primary school. And drivers would indeed floor it. Sometimes, they would hit children walking to school.
The ChildFund-supported Child and Youth Federation in that area banded together to change this dangerous situation, starting with collecting data on the number of accidents as well as traffic density and speeds. They knew speed bumps would be the answer to improving safety for students. But who would pay for the installation? Who had the authority to install the speed bumps?
They approached the local government authority to gain permission to install the bumps, and they got them installed for free by negotiating with a local contractor. There have been no further accidents in the year since the installation.
Another Child and Youth Federation in Jinja pinpointed a similar traffic situation, in which five children had been hit and one of them had died. The children and youth, ages 8 to 20, drew up a work plan, and they wrote to district and municipal leaders, the local Red Cross Society, head teachers from surrounding schools and the local police departments to highlight the issue and seek support. The Federation also called on children from three other primary schools and local communities to join the cause. Their campaign included street processions led by a children’s band to show road safety as a right and child protection as a responsibility of all. Finally, with the support of local authorities, three safe walkways were painted by youth, who also erected posters with safety messages at the site.
Since then, only one incident has been reported, in which a child was bumped by a cyclist disobeying the signage. A community member brought the man to the police.
Filling the gap
When Honduras’ President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a military coup last year, the ensuing political instability brought the closure of hundreds if not thousands of schools in the country. “My Best Vacations” was a project that the Honduras ADACAR/ChildFund Youth Federation organized to fill the educational void left in the wake of the political crisis.
To provide children and youth with educational and recreational activities in order to reinforce their skills and knowledge, 52 children and youth went through trainings guided by education specialists using five specially designed seminars (math and other academics). These 52 then began tutoring 546 children and youth of nearby communities. They also offered recreational workshops in dance, puppets and theater.
Not only were these young volunteers able to identify and give voice to their needs, but they also showed themselves capable of handling significant responsibility. They took action, and their communities took them seriously.
In the town of Musapura, near Indore, India, children and youth formed a committee with the help of ChildFund. Together, they worked to identify the reasons that kept some parents from sending their children to school, which was some distance away.
When the group conducted a community risk-mapping exercise to understand other factors that kept children from school, they found that a primary issue was safety — both on the way to and inside school. Group members then canvassed the homes of the unenrolled children and spoke to their caregivers and parents about the importance of education. The children and youth were eager to motivate all parents and other community members to support school attendance for all children.
Their strategy was successful in mobilizing parents and resulted in increased enrollment and attendance at school by many children who previously could not attend.
Learn about another example of child- and youth-led advocacy in Zambia.