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Gathak’s Story: A Children’s Book About Nurturing Parent-Child Relationships in Greater Ulang

Date: November 20, 2023

As Barmach, South Sudan community members walked away from a training on 'Good Enough Parenting' and its relatedness to Child Protection, they were smiling in pride as they unexpectedly walked away as authors of a children’s book.

One hot day, community members gathered in an empty classroom to attend a standard training conducted by Tahmineh Ranjbar, NP Protection Officer. Although the initial idea of the storytelling was mentioned by the NP facilitators, the core ideas in the story were created by the participants. Midway through the training, someone joked that “there should be a children’s book that explains what good-enough parenting and child protection looks like for the Bramach community.” Another participant chimed in, “Actually that’s a good idea, maybe we could write a children’s book!”   

Suddenly, participants were brainstorming storylines aloud as Tahmineh and her colleagues rushed to capture all the ideas on the chalkboard. Staff were surprised, yet grateful for the deep trust and engagement from all community members (something that NP training has a unique magic of creating).  

As the group continued discussing, they agreed that the goal would be to write a book with an impactful narrative, one that could enrich a child's well-being. The story’s direction was purely led by the participants' vibrant imaginations and commitment to mainstreaming child protection. Each element of the book—from the plot to the characters, and even the themes—was created by the community.

"On our way back, I couldn't help but reflect on how often we might assume that the knowledge we offer to communities is external, something they lack," Tamineh reflected. "However, we must trust in human nature and the inherent wisdom within communities. We need to believe in them."

As parents and caregivers read Gathak’s Story with little ones, kids will be able to reflect on concepts such as resilience and adaptability; empathy and care for others; normalizing shared responsibilities across genders; the value of community and extended family; and emotional security.

However, the story is as much of a message for children as it is for adults. Parents and caregivers can read the book to loved ones in English or Nuer, the local language, while taking a closer look at how Gathak's family seeks support from extended family; challenges traditional gender roles; and considers the needs of the entire family.

Gathak’s Story is more than a book, it’s a symbol of empowerment, collaboration, and the wisdom of the Bramach community. The story shows kids that each family member can play a crucial role in child protection and well-being. The books have been printed and are being distributed amongst field teams across Greater Ulang.

Aspects of a community’s history, culture, and art can be pathways for unity and learning. “Often, we assume that we bring external knowledge to communities, overlooking the inherent wisdom that lies within," said Tamineh. "This experience was a stark reminder of the importance of trusting in this wisdom. We should view communities not as passive recipients of our knowledge but as active participants with valuable insights.

We don't need to impose values; we just need to create an environment where ideas flow, where people feel engaged and truly listened to, as this will help them unearth their values. ... Who knows? Perhaps we'll create another Gathak's Story."

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This project was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and supporters like you. 

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