Empowering children as agents of change

Empowering children as agents of change

Terre des Hommes Netherlands has been encouraging children by involving them in their development and protection to make their work intrinsically child-driven, reflecting true impact and long-term sustainability 

Published on September 20, 2021 at 1:49 am

Amit Kumar leading a Children’s Club meeting.

As a global Child Protection organisation taking children out of exploitation, Terre des Hommes Netherlands (TdH-NL) believes in the immense potential Child Participation has in bringing about change.

Throughout their projects, TdH-NL encourages children by involving them in their development and protection so as to make their work intrinsically child-driven, reflecting true impact and long-term sustainability. 

Across all TdH-NL projects, children (age 12 to 18) vulnerable to and victims of exploitation are grouped into Children’s Clubs where they are trained in understanding the issue at hand and its implications on their lives. To initiate action against the issue, children are trained in child rights, child protection laws, reporting mechanisms, tools of advocacy as well as life skills to build their capacities.

TdH-NL terms this approach, ‘Children as Agents of Change’, as vulnerable children become empowered to be torchbearers of the change they wish to see. The result of this has been extremely inspiring. 

For instance, in the mica mining areas of Jharkhand, Children’s Clubs have been successful in stopping child labour and child marriage. They have also been instrumental in bringing children back to school. 

Youth advocacy rally by TdH-NL.

“We identify out-of-school children by observing their regular absenteeism in school. Apart from this, we also keep a check on the households and the children who do not go to school. Our network of child club members observes if they are engaged in any form of labour or other exploitation. Once identified, along with the Village Level Child Protection Committee (VLCPC), we first go to the child’s home and counsel the parents about how it is dangerous for the child to work in the mines, or to get married early. We explain the consequences of the issue on the child’s future. We further sensitise the parents on the importance of sending their child to school, as to how education would empower the child and the family in the long run,” says Amit Kumar, a Children’s Club president in the Koderma district of Jharkhand. “If this doesn’t work, we warn the parents/guardians on the legal consequences of their actions. As a further step, we call ChildLine (1098) and report the issue,” he adds.

In 2020, with the help of the Children’s Club, TdH-NL has been able to take around 365 children out of exploitation and enroll 568 children in school in mica mining areas where children are at risk of child labour.

The Child Participation approach of TdH-NL extends to its other projects too which primarily focus on girl child empowerment.

Children documenting their concerns on the village notice board.

In the state of Karnataka, TdH-NL works to empower victims of child marriage. As part of this initiative, early married girls and young women are being organised into a movement where they are trained to advocate for their rights, speak up against injustice and fight for a child marriage free society. These girls are trained on confidence building, leadership, child rights and advocacy. This movement has helped early married girls, an ignored and marginalised segment, represent their concerns at various Government platforms where they advocate with the authorities on the need for positive action for the issues they face. They have come a long way from suffering in silence to boldly claiming their rights in the open.

The ‘Children as Agents of Change approach’ has also borne fruit in TdH-NL’s efforts to address girl child exploitation in North Karnataka’s Devadasi system which dedicates women from lower caste Devadasi communities into a life of sex work as a part of a societal norm. Through Children’s Clubs, girls have learnt different tools of child-led research such as community mapping, photography and videography which has helped them document problems and represent their concerns to higher-level authorities. With the help of these interventions, the girls have solved many village issues such as the construction of toilets, resolving drainage problems and others. By solving the issue, the community gets a renewed sense of respect, taking them away from the pressure of being dedicated as sex workers. It has also helped girls who have been severely emotionally affected be confident, brave and resilient. 

Flash mob awareness by youth.

TdH-NL has also encouraged the youth to come together to address issues of child marriage and child trafficking. In the state of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the organisation created a wing of nearly 330 Youth Advocates who have sensitised the public on the need for the prevention of early marriage and trafficking through innovative campaigns and rallies, some of them being flash mobs, sensitisation on buses and martial arts programmes.

The impact of this Child Participation could also be seen during the pandemic, where children from TdH-NL’s projects took the effort to spread awareness on COVID through door-to-door sensitisation, wall writings, marking for social distancing, among others.

“We at TdH-NL are so delighted to see our children take the initiative to make a difference. We are very proud of their efforts and are glad that we were instrumental in bringing them together,” says Mr Thangaperumal Ponpandi, the India Country Manager at Terre des Hommes Netherlands.



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