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Posts Tagged ‘MDGs’

I have a daughter. She was born at home with a traditional midwife in a poor barrio in San Salvador. Her father had a 9th grade education when we got married. She had severe diarrhea at least 3 times as a baby and we worried that she might not make it. My mother-in-law took her to a traditional healer because the doctors didn’t seem to be getting it right. She had pneumonia twice as a baby, probably due to allergies, air pollution and the chickens my mother-in-law kept in the small house. She had dengue once. The water didn’t always run and people stored water in open barrels, so there were a lot of mosquitoes.

Luckily her father returned to school to finish his education. Luckily her mother and her mother’s mother were well educated. Luckily both of her parents worked, so there was enough money to feed and clothe her. Luckily we had a bit of savings that we invested in a small cement block house. Luckily we lived in a city, near a primary school. Luckily we were able to get a telephone installed around the time she was born. Luckily our barrio had electricity and we could afford to pay for it. Luckily we believed that she was just as worthy as her brother. Luckily today she is alive and thriving and in school, with a myriad of possibilities ahead of her.

Girls all over the world should be so lucky.

I’m reading the ‘Real Choices, Real Lives‘ cohort study that Plan just put out as part of the annual Because I am a Girl report (which launches Sept 22). It tells the stories of 142 girls in 9 countries (Brazil, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Benin, Togo, Uganda, Cambodia, Philippines and Vietnam) that researchers have been following since they were born. The girls will all turn 5 this year, except for the 5  girls whose lives have already been claimed by preventable diseases. 7 of the girls have dropped out of the study due to family migration or other reasons.

As powerful world leaders gather in New York this week to discuss accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, this report is a sobering and intimate reminder of the real inequalities girls, especially the poorest girls, face, and the struggles their family go through to keep them alive and help them to thrive.  The cohort study tells us that primary school enrollment rates in Sub Saharan Africa are up from 58% in 1990 to 76% in 2008, but in the poorest 20% of households, 39% of girls don’t attend school. The cohort study shows us, through the stories of the 130 girls who are still part of the cohort group, the very real impact on very real lives that failure to reach the MDGs has. The reality is that the poorest girls do not have what they need to survive, develop and participate fully.

What will happen this week in New York to change that?

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I’ll be speaking on a panel called ICT4D, Innovations and the MDGs next week during UN Week in New York and another on Girls and Mobiles hosted by Mobile Active. So, I’ve been putting together my thoughts around girls, child rights, ICTs and the MDGs.  The angle I’m taking is not from the large donor, top down, huge institutional program side, but instead, looking at examples from the work I’ve been closest to over the past few years at the community and district level, mostly focused on child and youth participation in the development process. Check my MDGs through a child rights lens post for more background.

My last post (3 ways to integrate ICTs into your development organization) uses Hannah Beardon’s framework to discuss how organizations can integrate ICTs into their work. Hannah suggests that ICTs can be integrated directly(providing access to ICTs), strategically (using ICTs as tools to support development processes) and indirectly (using ICTs to improve efficiency and communication within the organization).

To complete that post, I’m listing below 5 ways that ICTs can facilitate accountability and transparency, citizen engagement, and public debate, all of which are necessary to bring about development improvements and achieve the MDGs. Obviously these are not the only ways ICTs can support the MDGs, but this post would have been miles long if I’d listed all the initiatives that are out there.

1) Engaging children and youth in the development process

An engaged and active population is a key ingredient for good development programs. Children and youth have much to offer, are directly targeted in the MDGs and many other development initiatives, offer valuable ideas and energy, and make up around half the population in many of the countries that are lagging in reaching the MDGs. ICTs can help children and youth engage in the development process and bring their ideas, opinions and voices alive at the community, district, national and global level. ‘Using new technology, new media, children and youth can claim a space that they didn’t have before. They can influence certain things, advocate on particular issues that are important to them, take ownership in communities and in leadership. ICTs excite them and encourage them to be more involved and engaged.’ Anthony Njoroge, Plan Kenya Community ICT Manager.

ICTs empower young people with skills that make them more confident and more involved at the community level.‘Using ICTs, children and youth have become more responsible because they are not waiting for adults to come in with something. Now they are designing it themselves, they are creating space for themselves and bringing their agenda to adult meetings instead of waiting to be invited in or having to work within the agenda of the adults. It used to be that you’d start working with 20 youth, you’d invite them into a community meeting. You’d see the number go down to 10, to 4, to 3, because they didn’t see any relation to themselves in the topics and the goings on. With integration of technology and the arts however, youth have a high level of interest. It’s really bringing in their opinions, their thoughts and ideas to join their voices with parents. Now they use arts and media to promote communication, dialogue on their issues and look for ways to resolve them. Before they were totally missing from the discussion, but now they are here.’ Judith Nkie, Plan Cameroon Youth Empowerment through Arts and Media Project Coordinator.

Arts and ICTs were used in the above-mentioned project as tools for youth engagement, mapping and prioritizing, research and community dialog. The media produced with the ICT tools was shared first within the community and then outside at the district, national and global levels as a way of engaging decision makers and the public in the youths’ agenda.  For more on how arts and ICTs are being used in the above-mentioned project, see this post. Watch 100 videos made by youth in 6 African countries on topics they are passionate about.

GPS work in Kwale, Kenya

2) Identifying resources and mapping patterns for better decision-making

Tracking and visualizing information is an excellent way to improve decision-making capacity. The advent of simpler and open source participatory digital mapping tools allows community members to map their communities digitally and to have more ownership of the information. Mapping helps identify patterns that may not have been visible before. Local maps shared on-line allow local people to provide their own information from their own perspective, and that information serves multiple purposes at the local level and beyond.

Digital mapping can be helpful when governments decentralize. Municipalities are mapping resources as well as projects and interventions. District authorities can track their own initiatives and those by local and international organizations to avoid duplication of efforts and wasted resources. When maps are public, the population can better demand answers about where resources are being allocated and why. Maps can help with disaster risk reduction and tools such as Ushahidi can help during emergency response. Mapping information is also useful for holding up a mirror to the population to ask them questions about themselves and their behaviors and for showing the direct consequences of actions; for example in a Community Total Led Sanitation mapping project, the community faces its realities about where their own waste is entering food and water sources.

Map Kibera is a good example of participatory digital mapping. mGEOS is a mobile mapping tool developed to help Plan Kenya staff to gather and share data needed for their daily work. Map Kibera and Plan Kenya are collaborating in Kwale on youth and governance work, and in Mathare to work on Community Total Led Sanitation using digital mapping tools (see July 27th entry). In this video, a district youth officer in Kenya talks about why digital mapping is useful for his community.

Mapping Violence against Children in Benin

3) Pulling in quick information to guide further investigation, response, or advocacy; pushing out information for targeted actions

ICTs can be used to gather quick information from a broad population. This can be useful in a variety of situations and themes, including those outlined in the MDGs. For example, SMS are being used to report on whether teachers are showing up at school, where violence against children and women is happening, where help is needed in the aftermath of a disaster, and for tracking endangered wildlife. Crowd sourced information can help governments and agencies get preliminary information so that further investigation and support can be provided in a particular area. Another example is the use of mobiles in different health initiatives, including:  child-birth care; HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment programs; support for volunteer community healthcare workers; and bed net treatment reminders. Most of the ICT and development world is also already familiar with the work of two organizations:  Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS who have been combining SMS with digital mapping.

A program that I’m closely involved with is SMS reporting of violence against children in Benin, where local communities, government agencies and NGOs are collaborating to improve the child protection system. This type of program shows promise if heed is paid to the pros and cons of collecting information by SMS, and if those implementing are clear about the type of information that will be gathered, privacy implications, and how the system will complement existing systems. (Here is one document that outlines some considerations). Increasing controls by governments and mobile phone companies, including SIM card registry and Mozambique’s recent government shut down of SMS services during the bread riots are good examples of how quickly the ICT landscape can change, and how flexible and agile those working in the area of ICTs need to be.

Checking info on constituency development fund

4) Supporting accountability and transparency

ICTs are useful to support accountability and transparency, necessary for attempts to track and ensure good use of funding for different efforts, including those related to the MDGs and other aid and development programs. Making information more available to the public by mobile is one such way.  SODNET’s budget tracking tool, for example, informs Kenyans of how much funding is allocated by the Constituency Development Fund to different municipalities in different categories. Combined with mapping, as outlined in this post, the budget information can help constituents to track where their funds are actually being spent.  Other interesting examples of how ICTs can be used for transparency and accountability can be found at TacticalTech’s Info Activism site and at Technology for Transparency.

Paper forms will soon be digitized….

5) Improving municipal services and information management

Civil registration documents, especially a birth certificate, are a precursor to demanding any number of rights or accessing a wide array of services. Without a birth certificate a child may not be able to sit for school exams, receive immunizations or free health care or claim rights to inheritance or legal protection in courts of law. Proof of age is critical in successfully prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against children such as child trafficking, sexual offenses, early recruitment into the armed forces, child marriage and child labor. ICTs are being used to digitize civil registry in Kenya, for example. Not only are records being digitized, but mobile phones are used to make it more convenient for the population to know when their documents are ready. This saves people time and money and means that more parents will register their children.

But wait, there’s more!

These are only a few examples of ways that ICTs are being used at the grassroots level to improve participation, transparency, accountability, debate and ownership of the development process.  The MDGs are lofty, but informed local community participation and ownership is key in efforts to reach them and in ensuring that marginalized populations can also be included.

Please add your examples of ways that ICTs can support development and ICTs in the comments section!

Related posts on Wait… What?

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A positively brilliant ICT4D workshop in Kwale, Kenya

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The latest UN report on the MDGs states that progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has been made, but it’s uneven. It looks like the Goals will be missed in most regions.

I’m blaming Madonna for launching her line of MDG sunglasses and not linking them to an MDG promotion campaign (kidding!)

To discuss all this (well, except for the sunglasses part), MDG week is happening in New York from September 20-24, 2010.  I’ll be part of some of the activities, including 2 panels. The first panel is on ICTs, Innovation and the MDGs and the second is on Women/Girls and Mobiles. What better way to prepare than to write some blog posts to sort through some ideas?

This post looks at the link between child rights and the MDGs. I’ll write some additional posts and add links at the bottom of this post when they are ready. I would love feedback on which elements would be most important to highlight during the MDG panels next week.

Human rights and the MDGs

If you look at why some countries are more on track than others in achieving the MDGs, the answer often comes down to there being greater accountability and transparency at all levels, more citizen engagement, and more public debate. Human rights are instrumental in ensuring empowerment, access to social services, equality before the law, and poverty reduction. So the link between human rights and the MDGs is clear. There are a number of human rights concepts: shared responsibility, indivisibility, non-discrimination, equality, and accountability that are also necessary for achieving the MDGs.

Due to discrimination, the most marginalized are still not accessing their rights or being included in the MDGs. There are still massive inequalities between rich and poor, rural and urban, men and women, boys and girls, adults and children. Disability and ethnicity also prevent some groups from being included. Until these disparities are addressed, the achievement of the MDGs will be far off for many particular groups. The discussion around the MDGs needs to include and reflect the opinions and concerns of those who have been traditionally marginalized.

Girls and the MDGs

Children, especially girls, and especially girls in poor, rural areas and urban slums, are often the most marginalized in these processes and in general. The MDGs highlight some critical gender gaps, especially in education, but they do not reveal the power imbalances that are an underlying cause of these disparities. Girls are often subjected to harmful practices such as early marriage and sexual violence. In countries where literacy is lowest, girls’ chances of early marriage are highest. Girls spend more time working, shoulder the burden of household chores and are more often not in school. Organizations and entities working towards the MDGs need to do more to ensure that girls and other marginalized groups are not excluded.

MDGs through a child rights lens

Child rights are a set of specific rights for those under the age of 18. They are outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Much of the work that child rights organizations are doing is complementary to achieving the MDGs, and 6 of the 8 MDGs are directly related to children.

Working with children and young people to participate effectively in the development of their communities and the realization of their rights contributes directly and indirectly to the achievement of the MDGs. Ensuring that children, especially girls, and other marginalized groups are listened to and heard by decision makers at the local, district, national and global levels is critical in identifying and addressing the hidden power dynamics and the underlying issues that slow the achievement of the MDGs.

Applying a ‘child rights’ lens to the MDGs is helpful in identifying responsibilities for achievement of the different MDGs. A child rights lens can also help ensure the concepts of non-discrimination and the best interest of the child are incorporated into MDG work.

What is a child rights lens?  How can it be applied to the MDGs? In a simplified way, it means:

  1. Identifying and monitoring those persons and institutions responsible for ensuring children’s rights/achievement of the MDGs (the ‘duty bearers’).
  2. Helping children and adolescents (the ‘rights holders’ in this case), to empower themselves by knowing their rights/knowing the MDGs, and together with supportive adults and institutions, to hold duty bearers accountable for ensuring children’s rights/achievement of the MDGs.
  3. Supporting children to participate fully in the process. Children’s participation leads to better outcomes and policies, and involving children early in their lives helps them develop skills and attitudes that lead to a better society in the short and long-term. Not only do children have something to contribute to their societies now, but by engaging in community development and developing good leadership skills at a young age, they also become better leaders in the future.

A child rights approach should be central to all programs and funding that are addressing the MDGs, since the MDGs are interrelated with children’s rights to survival, development, participation and protection. In addition, the principles of non-discrimination and the best interest of the child should be paramount in all decisions taken related to the MDGs.

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Resources:

UNICEF’s Narrowing the Gaps to meet the Goals shows that paying attention to equity and the unreached can be a more cost-effective way of pursuing the MDGs in aggregate.

3 ways to integrate ICTs into development work

5 ways ICTs can support the MDGs

7 (or more) questions to ask before adding ICTs

Related posts on Wait… What

Child participation at events:  getting it right

Child protection, the media and youth media programs

Community based child protection


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