Contribution of Children’s Grassroots Group in Promoting Child Rights Through the “Accountable Governance that Protects and Deliver Children’s Rights in Rwanda Project.
The “Accountable Governance that Protect and Deliver Children’s Rights in Rwanda (AGDCR)” is a five-year project that has been implemented since 2017 in four districts including Burera district in the Northern province, Kirehe in the Eastern province, Nyarugenge in the City of Kigali and Ruhango district in the Southern province with the main objective to ensure that the Government of Rwanda adopts changes in legislation, policies and practices in child rights as a result of Civil society Organizations (CSOs) and children advocacy. This project is being implemented by different CSOs including the Children’s Voice Today (CVT), Umuhuza, Cladho, Ajprodho and the Coalition Umwana Ku Isonga in the partnership with the Save the Children International Rwanda under the financial support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
Children are always the most vulnerable people worldwide be either in the humanitarian or development settings as they face different violence, exploitation, abuses, neglect caused by their own families or communities.
In Rwanda as well this has been a challenging issue that the government has put much effort to respond those issues.
Context and AGDCR Project Implementation Strategy.
To carry out mandate of supporting children to access appropriate services that respond and prevent any cases of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. In this way, the project builds the capacity of children through community-based children’s groups known as children grassroots groups in order to empower them to advocate themselves issues that affect their wellbeing. CVT has been implemented the AGDCR project in four districts of the country targeting five sectors in each district of the project implementation, as the prevention and respond to child protection issues needs the joint commitment from different stakeholders, the project works with local government authorities, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders as an entry point for service coordination to introduce a comprehensive holistic approach to the protection of children from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence and to the fulfilment of children’s rights to protection and to respond to cases that raised by children. This has fulfilment of children’s rights to protection. In so doing, the project contributes to the improvement of strengthening the capacity of children to hold the government of Rwanda accountable for children’s rights as well as child protection systems.
Key Achievements for the First Quarter 2019.
According to the children’s reports from different children grassroots groups shared to CVT staffs during the trainings of children on child rights violations, child protection and rights monitoring, and reporting, children, local leaders and community members have started to understand well child rights and protection, they have put children promotion as a top priority by implementing laws and policies that aim to protect children.
The following are basic key success achievement that children have performed for better promoting their rights in community:
- A significant number of children have dropped out school (24 children) most of them went back to school among which 11 received school materials and other needed support from other children and parents’ as results of children’s advocacy and follow up with teachers and head teachers. Currently children work hand in hand with local authorities, teachers and head teachers to handle and mitigate the drop out of school in their communities and this is a working together exemplary to advocate for children’s rights and this can be adopting for efficiency and impact.
- For children and families to access health services, children have identified other children without health insurance (Mutuelle de Sante), children from groups have done an outstanding work of advocacy for most vulnerable children and their families who were not able to afford the health insurance. Because of that advocacy work, three children with their families have received health insurance. This has done during community work where children and local leaders mobilises community members to pay for those who can’t afford the health insurance themselves. Children have sensitized capable of families to pay health insurance to their children so that they won’t be at risk.
- As a result of trainings children gained from CVT under the AGDCR project, children representative of others in children grassroots groups trained their fellows on child rights and child protection as to sensitize them to fight different violence they may face and how they can be aware of them, respond and be protective in any ways. Children from district of intervention improved their skills and advocacy to children and help their fellows to recover their rights.
- The trainings received by children representative of others in children grassroots groups helped them to know the issues existing that hinder the well being of children. They started conduct visits in their community aim to identify children who are at risk and advocate, support them.
- Through the awareness raising sessions conducted by some children grassroots’ groups in their respective community and the support they provided to children, access to information for children and their families in community has improved. Both children and their Families currently know what child rights is and protection. Children grassroots group members have already started observing an increase of children and their families who start understanding the value of utilizing child protection services that are availed for them and why they should claim for its provision. Families (parents) and local leaders have noticed that the wellbeing of children is in their hands.
- Since 2015 the government of Rwanda established a community-based child and family protection group of volunteers known as Inshuti z’Umuryango (IZU)/Friends of the Family thus, these three months (1st Quarter of 2019), children grassroots group members observe a stimulating collaboration between them and inspector labour. The inspector of labour in Burera visited some groups and communicated and encouraged children to report any case related to child labour in their community, sector. Children were also requested to share information with social affairs and Police to any people or company that can use those children in labour so that we can prevent on time child labour. Nine children were reported during these three months and the intervention was done by social affairs and police.
- Social affairs and Sector Education Officers work hand in hand with children to control school drop out in the community because the trend is that drop out is increasing. Due to this constant issue that children are always voicing out and reporting, the sector level leaders committed to take measures (raise community awareness on the issue, ask teachers to report on time cases of children missing school, conduct meetings with companies that recruit children for job, etc.) to control it and ensure that all children are in school.
- Children from Cyanika sector (burera district) in collaboration with IZU have been asked to identify pregnant teenage girls or teenage mothers for sector to take actions to those perpetrators and take them to courts (for judicial proceedings).
- There was improvement knowledge among children, adults on different types of violence, abuse and exploitation affecting children and the possible avenues to prevent and respond to such cases. Children, parents, community members can identify an abuse, violence, exploitation and they report to local leaders both in village, cell and sector level.
- During the three months period, children participation focused on children and young people have the right to freely express their views and that there is an obligation to listen to children’s views and to facilitate their participation in all matters affecting them within the family, schools, local communities, public services, institutions, government policy, and judicial procedures. More than two hundred children from grassroots groups have been sensitized by their representatives in grassroots groups on issues affecting them and ways to respond and prevent them.
- Tackling physical and humiliating punishment (PHP) and promotion of positive discipline. Last year-2018 through collaboration with Children’s Voice Today (CVT) staff and children’s grassroots groups have conducted awareness/sensitization sessions in the communities of districts of intervention with local leaders, district officials, sector and district education officers and children where they discussed about ending the use of PHP in all settings. Children were open and they emphasized on the negative impact of using PHP. As for children both in schools and homes, PHP have been a major problem, through observation and feedback from children, some people have started to understand how physical and humiliating punishments violate children’s rights and sometimes being the cause of school dropout or low performance of children and family conflicts which sometimes led children to leave their homes. More sensitizations and awareness are being done in the monthly community work (Umuganda), evening parents’ forum (Umugoroba w’Ababyeyi), children’s grassroots groups and in many other forums, as well as through posters and flyers disseminated in schools and in other areas so that people could understand that PHP is harmful to to child health.
- Children in groups work is becoming more organized, as they develop monthly plans to make sure that they do not work in disorder so that they always have plan for the activities they will be doing. In addition, children have gained day after day confidence and capacity in awareness raising, mapping exercise of child rights which is not fulfilled at different levels.
Solidarity Children’s Grassroots Group- RUGARAMA SECTOR:
Theogene (names have been changed to protect his privacy) is a 14-year-old boy who had left her family and was loitering around the village and nearby centres as a street child. Her parents are residents in Rugarama Sector. Theogene was doing work of carrying sacs of Irish potatoes and sometimes fetching water for the sake of money from other families in his community so that he could get what to buy wheat donuts as his meal, later friends of family-IZU in this village realised that Theogene was no longer living with her parents and no longer going to school. During children’s group meeting on Saturday, one of his neighbour children told other fellows to try to bring him back as they sensitize Theogene to go back home and continue his studies.
Some children from children’s grassroots group committee visited his family to confirm with the parents why he left the family, his mother explained to children that he just said he don’t want to go back to school because teacher punish him every day for nothing he has done. Within two days theogene started going to the centre to work for money which parents didn’t agree with him, later he took all his clothes and started sleeping on street.
Later, children approached Theogene to ask him to join their group which they meet every Saturday and enjoy dancing and other activities they do in group that aim to promote child rights. Theogene came curiously one time and they talked about child protection and rights, the cause of dropping out the school and consequences he can face while doing heavy work.
From that day, Theogene keep coming to join other children where he agreed to go back home and go back to school. Theogene he’s a regular member of solidarity group in Rugarama sector, and he’s benefiting the project intervention through children’s grassroots groups.
“The advice, welcome and support provided by children from grassroots group helped me to go back home, love and tremendous positive effects which has been an encouraging achievement to me and my family. I just feel settle and I will go back to school as I was joined P3 class. I thank my fellow children who brought me back from where I was, and I promise not to go back to the street. said by Theogene, 14 years old in Rugarama sector, Burera Ddistrict.”
Theogene is happily and he stays home, he has started normal life of a child. parents thanked Children for the love their have for their fellow children and effort for the return of their child.
Kabeho Mwana Children’s Grassroots Group- GAHUNGA SECTOR:
Ishimwe (names have been changed to protect his privacy) 11-year-old girl who had felt sick for a week. Ishimwe lived with her parents and siblings at in Gahunga sector, Burera district. Normally, she was young girl who likes to study, and she was brilliant in her class. She felt sick when she was at school, her friends brought her at home so that her parents could take her to hospital, later after four days her friends went to visit her to see whether she has recovered but, find that she was very sick and her parents didn’t take her to hospital because their family didn’t have health insurance (Mituelle de Sante). Ishimwe’s friends felt bad for her friend and they immediately inform Inshuti z’umuryango and the president of children’s forum in their sector to get for her support so that she could go to hospital. Through collaboration with IZU and local leaders, ishimwe got a quick and emergency treatment so that she gets well soon.
The advocacy children did for Ishimwe was so powerful to everyone. This taught other children to have love for their fellows, advocate and strive to voice out the issues other children are facing in order to fulfil their rights. As a result, through advocacy done by children all Ishimwe’s family including her parents and siblings got health insurance and Ishimwe returned back to school. And she’s enjoying her rights to education, as well as the right to good health care.
From the success stories above, the overall impact of the project;
Since the AGDCR has started working with children’s grassroots groups, children were strengthened through different project activities that help children to be confident to advocate their rights and support their fellows. This has made a remarkable change into deliver protection, prevention and response on children cases especially neglect, abuse, exploitation, violence and domestic violence as well. Thus, different concerns have been strongly addressed by children themselves, others were referred to local leaders or other service providers which has remarkably increased awareness raising and response on issues faced to children.
Children representative of others in children’s grassroots groups during the project training the trainings of children on child rights violations, child protection and rights monitoring, and reporting.
The collaboration between children, local leaders, IZUs and children forums have actively impacted the whole community and impact the policy makers for the betterment of child in general.
what you are we looking forward to achieving in the next three months.
As the project is in its third year of implementation, the project needs to put much efforts on implementation by applying processes and resources to achieve desired results (outputs, outcomes, impacts), documenting all effective case studies/success stories that reflect the project efforts results as well as integrating evidence and lessons learned on past performance and actual results into management decision-making. In addition, the project will keep collecting feedback from our beneficiaries and keep following up on some cases that children have raised in their advocacy activities.
PREPARED BY: Reviewed and Approved by:
Maureen SANYU/ Project Officer Innocent Ntakirutimana