Selecting Sites for Community Conversations on Child Protection Systems
The African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) has begun a new four-country initiative, in partnership with the Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI) and the USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems Project (ASSIST) to support district and community networks to improve the effectiveness and reach of child protection systems. Named the Community Child Protection Systems Project, ANPPCAN will work with communities, the Department of Children’s Services, NGOs, and multiple line Ministries to develop an action-oriented, bottom-up community of learning on child and family protection systems at multiple levels of the system.
Recently, in Kenya, ANPPCAN selected Mutuini and Kawangware, communities in Dagoretti District, Nairobi, to participate in the project. The selection of the communities was done during a meeting with the Area Advisory Council (AAC), based on the population size.
Kawangware Community is a slum community with a high population, many of whom live in mud or iron sheet rental houses. The community has hardly any space for children to play. Insecurity is high in the community, which is also characterized by poor sanitation and lack of social amenities. Mutuini Community has a smaller population with people living in their own homes, on two or three acres of land. Owing to the availability of land, residents of Mutuini rear cattle and goats and also grow agricultural produce which they sell to Kawangware community and other communities in Nairobi. The area has spacious playgrounds for children. Information from the two communities will therefore provide a good contrast of the issues facing children in slum and non-slum communities.
Thirty-five participants from the Department of Children’s Services in the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services as well as ministries of education, health, sports and the provincial administration took part in the meeting.
Others who attended the meeting includes representatives from civil society organizations (World Vision, etc), children’s homes (Garden Children Homes, Teresa Nuzzo Children’s Home and Riruta Shades for Orphans) and community based organizations, including Slum Drummers, and several volunteer children’s officers. ANPPCAN introduced the Community Child Protection Systems project to the participants and also presented findings of a desk review on community child protection systems.
Participants provided feedback on the major concerns of child protection in the district, mechanisms available for response to child protection issues, and the role of the community in preventing and responding to violence. Key concerns were denial of access to education, sexual abuse, child labour and drug and substance abuse. Several mechanisms exist for child protection in the district, including the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), schools, children’s homes, the provincial administration, the children’s assembly, and child protection units (CPUs) at police stations.
During the meeting, participants also made recommendations to strengthen child protection systems at the community. These include involvement of village elders in children’s issues, empowering communities on child rights and child protection, increased partnerships amongst stakeholders, improving child participation through child assemblies and other community level forums and strengthening community based monitoring systems.
A delegate at the meeting said, “We hope the work will not end here, but that you (ANPPCAN) will come back with information to help in strengthening the child protection systems, thus help reduce violence that is occasioned to children in the community.”
Another delegate commented, “First, empowerment of parents in child protection is key. Secondly, we used to have a diversion programme for children, in which instead of children going through the court process, they were rehabilitated within the community. However the programme collapsed because it was heavily donor funded. If the community works on an initiative such as this, it will not end like the diversion programme. It will be sustainable. It is good that this programme involves communities.”
With the two communities having been identified in Dagoretti District, in October, ANPPCAN will hold community conversations with children, parents, and children’s service providers to determine actual child rights concerns, the systems available for child protection, the gaps in the systems and how the formal and informal mechanisms interact.
Community conversations will be in the form of focus group discussions, with two groups of children 10-14 and 15-22 and three groups of adults - teachers, parents and professionals working in the community. Each group will comprise of 15-20 people and the focus group will last 3-5 hours.
The process will result in the development of action plans to support the community and district levels to improve service delivery to children. Besides Dagoretti, ANPPCAN will also work in Embakasi District in Nairobi and adopt a similar pattern in Uganda as well. In the end, we will have communities that are actively protecting their children and are supported by district and national level systems in protecting their children from abuse and other violations.
ANPPCAN, REPSSI, and the USAID ASSIST project are working together on the Community Child Protection Systems Project in four countries: Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Uganda. The project aims to build on skills of national, district and community level groups to identify and analyze gaps in the existing child protection systems, implement change, and measure results for local empowerment in removing the barriers that exist at the point of care. The project will consolidate and disseminate evidence-based best practices and capacity building efforts in child protection and establish technical working groups to provide guidance in the four countries, hold community conversations, develop action plans, and foster mechanisms for shared learning.