Traditionally we have been communicating a lot for and about children, yet hardly with and though them. In 2011 we endeavored to change this in DRC. Through a combination of play and knowledge, children, aged 12-16, are familiarized with the strategic use of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) to identify gaps between their rights and the reality that surrounds them, and to address those gaps through strategic advocacy.
The results are encouraging, in terms of individual empowerment, communication echoes and – social change. Evidence gathered over three years in the 11 provinces shows that once aware of their rights, children join forces and take-up social issues in their schools and communities. Experience illustrates that being sensitized to the gap that exists between their due and reality, children proactively seek to inform children and adults in their direct environment to change conditions that lead to the social marginalization of some. Furthermore the continued observation of children as eloquent players of change, makes adults more respectful in regards to children’s needs. Finally, the children’s voices are the most powerful advocacy material that UNICEF can get to convince the Government and donors.
With 2.3 million square kilometers DRC is a giant. To reach a maximum of children we conceived the training as a combo-package, with stages of varying intensity. In cooperation with NGO-partners (Protection/Education) groups of children are selected and initiated in rights-based thinking. Within these groups, those children who prove to be the most engaged are trained as Child Reporters. The latter are trained in advocacy based on the CRC, introduced in basic journalism principles and techniques, and given an overview of programming for children.
To ensure local ownership and acceptance, UNICEF associates the government and media. To ensure continued coaching of the children, local journalists from the UNICEF-supported child-friendly journalist network are involved. Started as a small-scale pilot project in 2010, child participation is since 2013 integrated in Peace-building programming in the conflict-affected East (Education), and since 2014 in Healthy Villages/Schools (WASH), Protecting Communities (Protection) and vaccination campaigns (Health) countrywide. Since 2012 UNICEF DRC seeks to give children opportunities to become players of political change, such as the Addis Ababa Forum (November 2012), the Children’s Forum of Hope in Bujumbura (May 2014), and the subsequent Heads of states meeting in Nairobi (July 2014). Material produced by the children is systematically featured on the Country Office Team Blog.
We’ll blog more about the child reporters and the Children’s Forum of Hope soon so stay tuned!
Chief of Communication, UNICEF DRC/Kinshasa