By Yumiko Shinya, Programme Officer (Innovation)
For seventy years, UNICEF has helped bring life-saving humanitarian support, long-term assistance, and hope to children in difficult situations – torn apart by conflict and crisis, living in extreme poverty and being discriminated.
And over the last sixty years, UNICEF Sudan has continuously supported the most vulnerable children – particularly those who have suffered from protracted conflict and more recently from climate change. As of November 2016, UNICEF has been able to timely access difficult to reach areas including Jebel Marra and Nuba mountain, providing over 82,000 newly affected children (50% of which are girls) in 12 states with quality and integrated psychosocial support. This support is achieved through the creation of Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) and community-based services.
CFS gives children a safe space to play, learn and enjoy recreational activities together. However, the recreational activities available within these CFS facilities do not usually meet children’s needs due to not creating activities that suit a broad range of age, gender, and cultural sensitivities in the area.
Addressing this issue, UNICEF Sudan together with UNICEF’s Child Protection and Education sections organized a national youth workshop called “I-nnovate for Tomorrow” in which young people are tasks to help design recreational kits that suit children’s needs.
28 adolescents, selected by the Ministry of Education from nine different states in Sudan, traveled to Khartoum to attend this five-day workshop. Also, 4 students from the Department of Industrial Design, College of Fine and Applied Art, Sudan University of Science and Technology were also invited to help facilitate the workshop – utilizing their knowledge and skills.
The workshop also aimed to consult with the youth on how to improve existing programs and processes in Sudan. A unique approach was used to generate insights – a child participation expert was invited to share his “dream land” – storytelling his ideal community that recognizes the rights and needs of children. Once he finished, he grouped participants together and encouraged them to visualize their “dream land”. Results from this process shared that the key issues experienced by children are education, health, and protection. In particular, the issue of protection especially with discrimination was a main concern for adolescents from the beginning and throughout the workshop. To address this issue, facilitators encouraged participants to express their experiences and observations around discrimination through drawings.
As a result, these outcomes became a key focus during the Strategic Moment of Reflection conducted by the Country Office in preparation for the new country programme 2018-2021.
Later on in the workshop, facilitators encouraged adolescents to brainstorm on the recreational activities they enjoy and would love to have. They mainly categorized it into music, art, theater, sports and others. This workshop uncovered that their favourite sport was playing football, followed by volleyball, and then billiards.
Derived from design thinking techniques, students were also able to develop “out of the box” activities – parachuting (maybe way too adventurous for UNICEF to support), exploring astronomy (a nice way of dreaming futures) and fostering innovation (making me feel blessed to be an innovation officer).
The workshop also invited The Center for Sudanese Traditional Music, known for producing musical instruments – with locally available materials only to expose children to traditional music, acting, and the arts.
In the end, participants were given a matrix and were tasked to list their desirable recreational activities across four different age groups (3-5, 6-10, 11-14, and 15-18 years old). After which they were asked to provide what they think were the necessary resources required for each activity ( finding out where UNICEF, other partners, and communities can support).
As a follow-up to this national workshop, UNICEF Sudan aims to validate the list of recreational activities and materials gathered at a state level. Simultaneously, adolescents who participated in the workshop in collaboration with the State Ministry of Education were encouraged to lead this validation process. Furthermore, UNICEF Sudan is also interested in integrating UNICEF Global Innovation Center’s “DigiSchool” to improve UNICEF-supported recreational activities in the field. “DigiSchool”, a package of audio-visual tools functional with solar panels, could help enrich the psychosocial support for children in emergency settings, by displaying educational games and movies.
Full of music and arts, this integrated nationwide workshop brought cheerful energy to the UNICEF Sudan Country Office and showed the power of bringing young people together to ideate, explore and interact with each other. This workshop not only generated great insights on how to re-design recreational kits that children in Sudan want and need, but also it encouraged students to share more about themselves, and their dreams. Moreover, engaging with the youth has ignited UNICEF, its partners, and the communities to provide environments which foster innovation and creativity – inspiring children to dream, and design their future.