My colleague Anastasie (in the photo above) in Plan’s West Africa office is working on a project to stop Violence Against Children (VAC). “We want to make the content and follow up mechanisms of the United Nation’s VAC study widely known among children, youth and their caretakers in West Africa and mobilize a wide representation of children and youth in the region to prevent and respond to violence against children.” Anastasie told me.
“People need to know about the VAC study and its outcomes. Children and youth especially need to know so that they can participate in finding solutions. We are working to strengthen the capacities of existing children and youth organizations to play their full role in civil society. We’re helping develop their capacities to communicate efficiently and effectively about this issue so that they can influence decision making processes.”
What does that actually mean, and what does the project look like?
“We work with the participating youth and children’s organizations and the adults that work with them to build their capacities through producing comic books, cartoons, information booklets, and radio and television programs that inform about the topic of violence against children,” Anastasie told me. “We have a website with a blog to give room to children, youth and adults to share opinions on violence.” The participating groups have also formed a network and an action plan to focus them as they go forward.
For me, it’s clear that child/youth participatory media is again (disclaimer – I’m obviously passionate about this) an ideal method for both building individual level skills and capacities in children and youth, generating discussion, research and reflection among children and youth on the topic, and identifying real stories and messages that can have a strong impact on viewers and which can be used to share ideas, opinions and generate dialogue. Social media tools open the project up even further to additional audiences and allow space for those not directly participating to also join in on the discussion. Photo: Youth in Ghana filming opinions about the topic of violence.
The cartoons (go about halfway down on the page click on ‘dessins animes’) and comics (click on ‘BD’) are drawn by the children and youth themselves with the support of partner organization Pictoons (amazing short feature video about Pictoons on Africa Open for Business!). They are based on real life stories that the children and youth bring to the workshops. Once drawn and animated, adults do professional voiceovers. Currently the materials are only available in French, but they will be dubbed in additional languages to spread their impact further. The website itself has a wealth of information about violence against children, including statistics, radio discussions, videos, comic books, and the cartoons mentioned above.
In the next phase of the project, additional tools will be incorporated. “We plan to use SMS, blog and mobile reporting, and maybe Ushahidi and Frontline SMS,” said Anastasie. “I heard about these tools in a workshop last December at Plan. I thought these tools would be good for mobilization and monitoring/evaluating the project.”
The idea would be for the youth groups to collect and report on incidences of violence in their communities using SMS. They would refer people who report violence to institutions that can provide support. The incident reports would be visualized on maps to show the extent of the problem, and these maps would be used to advocate, along with the other communication materials, to local, district and national decision makers. “We plan to begin this next phase of incorporating more social media and new technologies starting in January,” said Anastasie. Photo: youth learning to use the computer to share opinions on the VAC blog.
Check out some of the materials made by the youth at the Violence against Children site. Really nice work!
The Violence Against Children project takes place in 7 countries: Benin, Ghana, Mali, Togo, Guinea Conakry, Cote d’Ivoire and Gambia in partnership with Save the Children, Curious Minds (Ghana), Child Protection Alliance of Gambia, youth and children’s clubs in all these countries, the African Movement for Working Children and Youth, and Planet Jeunes (a popular magazine for youth in West Africa). The United Nations Violence against Children (UNVAC) studywas released in 2006. It identified 5 specific places where children face violence: home, school, work, community and institutions. Recently a Special Representative on Violence Against Children (Marta Santos Pais) was appointed by the UN Secretary General to look specifically into this issues.
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