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Mainstreaming Child Protection: ChildFund Goes to Washington

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By Christine Ennulat
Posted on 6/1/2011
Relishing a fresh-water source

Relishing a fresh-water source in Uganda.

"You can build a school, you can furnish it, you can hire and train teachers, you can open the school free of charge to all children," says Martin Hayes, ChildFund's Child Protection Specialist.

He then proceeds to rattle off a series of “buts”: “If parents don’t value girls’ education and prefer that they stay home and work, or if the school has only unisex latrines so girls don’t have privacy when they use the toilet, or if certain ethnic groups or castes in the community are not welcomed at the school, or if the school is in a dangerous area, or if the school has no way of holding teachers or students accountable for abusive behavior — will all children have access to this school?”

And there, in microcosm, is the problem Hayes will address in his presentation at this year’s Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF), June 8–9 in Washington, D.C. This annual conference is an opportunity for the international humanitarian aid community — including decision makers from the United Nations, governments, aid organizations and agencies — to exchange ideas, network and broaden the community's pool of best practices and innovations.

Hayes’ session, “Protection & Security,” presents the result of a partnership among child protection specialists from ChildFund, The International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and World Vision. Their collaboration resulted in a training manual to help all aid providers, whether focused on education, water and sanitation, health or other areas, to build a child protection mentality into their programs. The four specialists field-tested the manual, titled Applying Basic Child Protection Mainstreaming: Training for Field Staff in Non-protection Sectors, in Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Indonesia, Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Child-protection mainstreaming is meant to help aid workers whose focus is not specifically child protection to use a child-protection lens to better understand possible risks associated with the work that they are doing,” says Hayes, “and to reduce these risks to children through better designs and better-quality implementation.”

He provides an example from a water project ChildFund led in Uganda several years ago. Afterward, staff became aware that children, most often the ones charged with fetching water for their families’ use, were encountering violence along the way and fighting over their turns at the pump.

Says Hayes, “We involved children in selecting locations for new pumps and managing and scheduling water pump use.” ChildFund also trained community groups to improve overall safety for children in their communities, and organized youth to protect younger children. Child protection became a community-wide effort.

Child protection has long been of interest in humanitarian aid circles, but it remains an isolated field whose practical application throughout the development sector has yet to take hold. Representing a broad array of experience and knowledge from across the aid community, the training manual Hayes will share in his presentation has much potential to change that.