Participatory approaches used at the level of implementation of projects:
Participatory approaches are used in the implementation of our projects as a means to create an enabling environment whereby focus lies in listening and empowering children, their families and the communities in which they live. For example, children are listened to and empowered in Child Right Clubs, as they enable children to meet, establish friendships and also to actively participate and contribute to discussions that relate to decisions affecting them in health, education, protection and local and national governance. As a group they are also given the chance to perform various activities, such as for example taking part in radio talks, performing plays, poetry recitals, essay competitions, songs and routine marches to demand their rights and draw public attention to issues that affect them, such as, child marriage, child labour and the spirit child phenomenon, among other issues.
Indeed, Child Right Club workshops are designed with a particular focus on hearing and enhancing children’s voices so that they are listened to, and they elect their Child Right Club leaders within a democratic and participatory social mobilisation process. Coaching, mentoring and peer collaboration are also all fruits of the club’s participatory approaches. Implementing all of this, involves a profound change in the status of children in society and the nature of relationships between adults and children. For most children, being listened to and respected and having the opportunity to play a meaningful role in issues which affect them is not an option, which is why Child Right Clubs are essential in ensuring that children are able to realise their right to be heard. Indeed, Child Right Club members have expressed that they want more opportunities for participation at all levels in their community and have a great deal to offer in terms of transforming society now and in the future.
It is important to also highlight that Child Right Clubs are open to every child, no matter whether that child lives on the street and has no family or goes to school and has a family. Children with disabilities and from marginalised groups are also encouraged to join the clubs and children of different ages are also welcome in the Clubs although they are not suitable for very young children like those in Day Care.
On a broader community scale, community meetings and Durbars are also another mode in which participatory approaches can be applied as a means to ensure that community members contribute to locally led solutions and societal change. Local community meetings permit everyone’s perspectives and thoughts to be considered, which entails everyone putting forward their ideas and thoughts in a respectful manner. This doesn’t necessarily assume that the professionals or the well-educated automatically know what is best - everyone gets to participate in the planning process and has some role in decision making.
The Durbar, on the other hand, is a festival, which brings together a large number of people from the community and other locations. During the Durbars, for example, women compose and sing songs against the practice of child infanticide, child marriage, among other issues. Child Right Club members also perform poetry recitals, drama plays and sing songs against issues that affect children’s rights, and they also highlight the need for societal change in attitudes towards these issues.
In this sense, participatory approaches also lends itself to effective advocacy. Once the community takes part in identifying a problem and works towards a sustainable solution to address the problem, they then lead from the front. For example, former concoction men (traditional healers) who previously performed a traditional practice whereby children with disabilities were killed are now ‘Right to Life’ promoters advocating to ensure that the ‘spirit child phenomenon’ is eradicated. This kind of advocacy changes attitudes, norms and perceptions in favour of ensuring that children’s rights are protected.