Promoting Child Protection from a Bottom Up and Top Down Approach
by Nonviolent Peaceforce office in South Sudan
After months of preparation, the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) team based in Juba's Protection of Civilians sites has successfully promoted two local community-based "Child Protection Committees." Simultaneously, the "Child Protection Working Group" for UN House, chaired by NP and co-chaired at the initial phase by Terres des hommes (TdH), is already in operation. These achievements have special significance, as they complement each other and form a unique approach. That is, the "Child Protection Committee" works from a bottom up level and the "Child Protection Working Group" works from a top down level. Through these strategies, NP strives to install a comprehensive approach on child protection that responds to the specific needs annunciated by local actors in the field, (i.e. Child Protection Committees) while also providing a more strategic, and decision-making forum involving multi-stakeholders (i.e. Child Protection Working Groups).
On the Child Protection Committees:
1. Why is Nonviolent Peaceforce promoting Child Protection Committees in Juba Protection of Civilians sites?
Nonviolent Peaceforce promotes Child Protection Committees as a way to enhance partnership with the community, and to above all strengthen the capacity of the community towards child protection. A Child Protection Committee enables them to increasingly take ownership in responding to and effectively addressing conflicts in a nonviolent way.
Moreover, NP has decided to promote Child Protection Committees to assist their child protection teams in overseeing and reporting child protection concerns. This came as a follow up to the various concerns reported in the past on children in the site that require constant supervision. One of the lingering concerns in the area, is that cases of child neglect, exploitation and abuse are increasing.
2. How were the Child Protection Committee's promoted?
In the Juba Protection of Civilians sites, the members of the Child Protection Committee are selected through their own community, procedures, and leadership structures. The community and community leadership are involved from the beginning. This allows the committees to have the legitimacy, recognition, and acceptance needed for implementation of Child Protection Committee activities.
In one of the Juba sites, Nonviolent Peaceforce initiated conversation with the camp chairman about the Child Protection Committee where members were selected with the help of block leaders. The Child Protection Committee in this site is composed of 32 members, with two persons from each block (one female and one male).
At another site, staff agreed that there needed to be at least two representatives on the committee from each of its zones (nine in total). The idea was shared with the community leadership, who agreed with and appreciated the move. With the assistance of the zone leadership, 20 members were selected.
3. What have the Child Protection Committees done so far?
Although both sites have Child Protection Committees already established, the process has been different from one another. In one site, activities are ongoing, but the Child Protection Committee members are not officially deployed. At the other, the process has advanced further.
In the first site, two initial meetings were held with the members of the Child Protection Committee to give a brief idea about their role, and what a Child Protection Committee is. An introductory training on child protection for two groups of participants was conducted. Two more trainings took place in June on child development, child participation, and child rights. After the knowledge is gained and skills are enhanced from the training series, a final, more in depth meeting will be held to discuss the roles and responsibilities of Child Protection Committee. After these trainings and meeting, the Child Protection Committee members will become active in the community.
In the second site, the introductory meetings and initial trainings have finished, allowing for the Child Protection Committee members to have been deployed. They are monitoring and informing staff about the unique child protection concerns in the protection of civilians site within their respective zones.
After the selection process, the members were called in for a consultative meeting. The meeting explained the reasons for the committee formation, and provided more explanation about the concepts of child protection, different forms of child protection concerns, and how to correctly marry these concepts with happenings in the community. This was done through discussion and the telling of personal stories by the participants to inform the group of their experiences. Through this, the participants gave their thoughts on approaches they would use as members of the Child Protection Committee. The same procedure was repeated during the second training on child rights and the consultative meeting before the deployment.
An agreement was reached after the second training and deployment meeting that the participants would now be confidently deployed to start their work on child protection. However, one last team meeting was called to discuss their work on how to conduct using the same procedures in the site. Among the areas discussed and agreed on were:
• Networking and communication.
• Further child protection trainings with Child Protection Committee members.
• Meetings at the zone and block levels with other partners.
Members were challenged to hold child protection workshops and forums within their zones. These would target the identified child protection concerns within their zones.
• On child protection reporting and information sharing.
Following the deployment of the members after the trainings, some zone representatives have already called for meetings with their block residents. These were attended by NP staff to audit their child protection challenges and come up with their home-grown solutions.
On The Child Protection Working Group:
Until mid-2014 INTERSOS was chairing the Child Protection Working Group. After that, activities on child protection were handed over to Nonviolent Peaceforce. Recently, NP has been working with Terre des hommes (TdH) to resume the Child Protection Working Group for UN House. This is because there is a need to have a specific and strategic coordination forum on child protection. It is worth mentioning that although there are other forums where child protection concerns are dealt with, the importance of the matter requires a more specialized and strategic forum.
The first meeting of the Child Protection Working Group was on May 12th. Participants, including child protection organizations and organizations from other sectors such as education and health, which are involved in child protection activities, agreed on the need to have such a strategic working group. Moreover, member organizations agreed on the need to come up with a child protection referral pathway for UN House; this will then be one of the first outcomes of the Child Protection Working Group. Some of the objectives of the Child Protection Working Group are to:
i. Ensure a more coherent, effective, collaborative, and strategic response to child protection issues and needs by mobilizing stakeholders, organizations, non-governmental organizations, international non-governmental organizations, and local community-based structures in Protection of Civilians UN House.
ii. Promote to ensure a child protection perspective into the humanitarian and security agenda.
iii. Promote consensus building, sharing information, and avoiding duplication amongst child protection actors and organizations that carry out child protection activities.
iv. Support capacity development of member agencies and community.
v. Contribute to roll out child protection policy, standards, and common approaches for monitoring and reporting.
vi. Identify services and gaps in addressing child protection issues and advocate for policy and resources support with state and non-state actors at state and national level.
The Child Protection Working Group will be key liaison with the Central Equatoria Child Protection Working Group and with the child protection sub cluster at a national level.
With the promotion of the Child Protection Committees' and the establishment of the Child Protection Working Group NP consolidates as the leading child protection agency in UN House.