Tag Archives africa

Positioning Academia | Decolonizing academic minds: reflecting on what academics are getting wrong (and right) by Ton Dietz

Positioning Academia | Decolonizing academic minds: reflecting on what academics are getting wrong (and right) by Ton Dietz

When Linda Johnson and I shared responsibilities for the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity, we had many discussions that were close to the leading topic of the ongoing ...

COVID-19 | The voices of children and youth in Tanzania’s COVID-19 response

COVID-19 | The voices of children and youth in Tanzania’s COVID-19 response

Rapid research into the effects of COVID-19 on young people in Tanzania reveals high levels of anxiety about the virus as it relates to relationships, economic livelihoods and the community. ...

How do grassroots networks in Kenya tackle violence against children?

In the absence of state infrastructure, grassroots networks play a crucial role in addressing the prevalence of violence against children in Kenya. How do these networks work and how can they be supported to overcome their challenges?

In much of Africa, where the state plays a limited role in preventing child vulnerability and in-service provision, grassroots informal community-based networks play an important role in addressing violence against children (VAC). I draw on research carried out in 2019-20 with Civsource Africa that focused on the role of different types of networks on the prevention of violence against children in Kenya, showing that while different actors at different levels are networked in the prevention of VAC, grassroots networks are on the front line of preventing and responding to this violence.

However, our research notes that there are challenges in the functionality of these networks, including in the way they interact with other more formal networks working to prevent VAC. These issues need to be addressed, taking care that grassroots networks do not lose their unique identity.

How do grassroots networks work?

Networks are conceptualised as interconnected webs of actors, pooling together for mutual reciprocity in addressing VAC. In our research, there were formal and structured networks that comprised non-state actors like NGOs and other state institutions such as Kenya’s Department of Children Services, the Ministry of Health and actors in the court system.

At the community level, the unstructured grassroots networks included individual community volunteers, child protection volunteers, community-based organisations and community health workers. They also include community-based paralegals, who support children and caregivers in legal redress, as well as opinion leaders who are consulted in issues of violence against children.

These grassroots individuals and groups either worked separately within their communities or were networked with other actors, to whom they reported to or referred issues of child protection. For example, they were working with local community leaders in charge of sub-counties (known as chiefs), the Department of Children’s Services, the Ministry of health, the police and with different NGOs.

Some of these grassroots actors worked as appendages to the state system of child protection. For example, child protection volunteers are selected by the community but vetted by the Children Office and are expected to monitor issues of violence in the community and report to the Children Officers. The community health workers are appointed and vetted by the community during meetings known as Barazas. While some worked independently, they were part of the Ministry of Health strategy for delivering services to the grassroots and therefore expected to take up issues of child abuse and violence and referral to appropriate services. Being selected by the community reinforces the codes of trust that make them accountable to the local population. These actors were therefore expected to give periodic reports on VAC through public meetings.

The financing and capacity arrangements of these structures are diverse. For example, the community-based networks pool together their resources and energy to carry out dialogue in the community and follow up after cases of VAC. Some of them receive funding from the organisations they are affiliated with. Some volunteers working with the NGOs were receiving training, small funding for targeted activities and transport to follow up after cases of VAC. Some of the volunteers and CBOs were also working with several organisations at the same time.

 

The benefits of community networks

Working independently or through other structures, these grassroots networks of community volunteers build the resilience of children by training them on their rights, offering psychosocial support and identifying cases of violence. They also build bonds that make it easier to address violence, by encouraging the development of positive norms and an ethos of child protection through dialogue on responsibility towards children. They also enhance the community’s collective efficacy in caring for their children through training on income generating activities. The grassroots actors also build bridges by connecting children with the police and other leaders who enforce laws, and probation and children officers who ensure state child protection.

Vertical collaborations with larger networks addressing violence against children enables these networks to draw synergies since some NGOs provide services addressing structural causes of VAC. For example, a CBO in an informal settlement in Nairobi noted that one of the NGOs supported the development of a community VAC alert system. Such collaboration ensures that effort in violence prevention is not just a local exercise but is connected at different nodes, thus ensuring that broader interventions are based on children’s everyday experiences of violence. For example, the child protection volunteers are part of the local Children Area Advisory Council, which is part of the National Council for Children Services, the highest oversight body on children’s issues.

These networks are homegrown and rely on community trust relations and, therefore, enhance faster dissemination of information on VAC at the grassroots level. They also act as first responders or what is seen as the first mile on issues of violence against children in their communities.

Similarly, our research finds that grassroots actors are acknowledged by other actors such as the police, children’s officers and local administrations, who listen to them. This validation is important in accountability to children’s rights since it might help the grassroots actors to check for excesses by such leaders when handling issues of violence, without fear of reprisals.

Overall, these simultaneously local and place-based, vertically integrated and culturally competent responses to violence emerged as important in addressing violence against children. They also, however, face challenges.

Challenges the networks face in addressing violence against children

Due to a lack of adequate resources, including for transport and in some cases support to children facing violence, our research found that some volunteers stopped following up after cases of violence. While some were receiving support from other organisations, most of them used their own resources; some of the larger networks they work with often rely on donor funding and so, when funding ceases, the NGOs moved on, breaking the VAC referral pathways. The NGOs that participated in the research explained that community volunteers are not remunerated since they were seen as serving their communities.

In cases where community-based networks were linked to other structured networks, the playing field was uneven. The volunteers felt that they only participated nominally in these networks and were being ‘used’ as cogs by providing their services and information for writing grants, and then ‘dumped’ after the NGOs received them. This should also be seen through the lens of the philanthropy-wide shifts in Africa where funders require NGOs to demonstrate that they are working with community structures, which supports van Stapele’s research in Kenya where community based organisations characterised the relationship with NGOs as colonialist and saw themselves as ‘donkeys’, engaged in drudgery for the NGOs’ benefit.

In our research, the grassroot actors reported that, to get even, they would hoard information or register their own organisations to access the largesse of donor funds. Such tensions weaken the synergies that would accrue from networking, ultimately affecting efforts to address violence against children.

Even more, while proximity to the community is a resource, it also has a downside; some volunteers reported that they are victimised by the perpetrators of violence.

How to support grassroots networks

Grassroots networks in Kenya play an important role in preventing violence against children, and their work can be a basis for testing innovative models in child protection, and take to scale the prevention of VAC, and therefore they need to be supported. Care should, however, be taken so that systems in these networks that rely on trust are enabled to respond to violence without being undermined.

Efforts should also be made to ensure that collaborations are not only geared towards meeting the needs of external catalysts, such as NGOs, without tangible benefits for children. Further, these networks should not be co-opted into donor funding cycles which may not allow space for innovation because of their short-term and competing motivations.

To address the skewed power dynamics between actors, there is a need for strengthening the accountability of these grassroots organisations, as this will enhance accountability to the community and ultimately to children. There is an imperative for revisiting the very terms on which these organisations are crowded in by other actors.


 This post is an output from LSE’s Centre for Public Authority and International Development at the LSE’s Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa and first appeared here

About the author:

Elizabeth Ngutuku has a PhD in Development Studies from the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her work investigates young people’s experience of poverty, vulnerability, citizenship claims and sexual and reproductive health.

Are you looking for more content about Global Development and Social Justice? Subscribe to Bliss, the official blog of the International Institute of Social Studies, and stay updated about interesting topics our researchers are working on.

I am only well if you are well: can the Utu-Ubuntu philosophy help drive the acceptance of sexual and reproductive rights in Africa? by Joan Njagi

I am only well if you are well: can the Utu-Ubuntu philosophy help drive the acceptance of sexual and reproductive rights in Africa? by Joan Njagi

In the face of growing resistance of religious and conservative groups on the African continent to the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), this article discusses the ...

The End of the African Mining Enclave? by Ben Radley

The End of the African Mining Enclave? by Ben Radley

During much of the twentieth century, the African mining sector was seen by many as an enclaved economy, extracting resources to the benefit of the global economy while offering little ...

Development Dialogue 2018 | Blue Economy: A New Frontier of an African Renaissance? by Johan Spamer

The African Union recently proclaimed that the ‘Blue Economy’, as the ocean economy is increasingly known, could become the ‘New Frontier of an African Renaissance’. The Blue Economy promises sustainable development through its focus on socio-economic inclusion and the protection of the maritime environment, but is it really all it promises to be? With the first global conference on the sustainable development of the blue economy taking place in two weeks, this article takes a closer look at what the Blue Economy is about.  


It was as late as 2012 that the Blue Economy was officially recognised at the Third International Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20). In the absence of a universal definition, Verma (2018) argues that the Blue Economy can be regarded as the integration of ocean economy with the principles of social inclusion, environmental sustainability, and innovative, dynamic business models (p.103). As such, the Blue Economy offers a new and alternative sustainability approach that goes beyond simply harmonising activities in an ecologically friendly manner. It’s a notion that grew out of the Green Economy (Claudio, 2013), but with different policies and frameworks, offering its own characteristics and domain for countries whose futures are based on maritime resources. Africa is calling the Blue Economy narrative the frontline of the continent’s rebirth, but what is this new notion, and how is it different from other blue-infused (e.g. Europe’s blue growth) drives?

AFRICA’S NEW (BLUE) DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE

The paths followed by leading African countries (e.g. Seychelles, Mauritius, Kenya and South Africa) in establishing Blue Economy frameworks are important, and so is the manner in which these countries go about it by establishing dedicated departments for implementation. The Blue Economy per definition offers an opportunity to prevent the vulnerable, often also marginalised populations, from missing out on socio-economic opportunities in the maritime sector. Furthermore, these beneficiaries can now obtain a fair share of the public good, claim their voices on an equal footing, and can attain a secured sense of dignity through unlocking wealth opportunities.

At least, this is the picture painted by African legislators. However, we are still lacking sufficient empirical data and scientific research to substantiate these foreseen outcomes. Critique against or endorsements of the African Blue Economy are both reference to ad hoc cases and by making broad conclusions in the absence of rigourous in-depth case analyses. Furthermore, the scope of the Blue Economy within the African context includes lakes, rivers, dams, and underground water. It goes beyond the traditional coastal and ocean-based economies with landlocked countries also included in the regional strategies (UNECA, 2016). This makes generalisation and case comparisons with non-African Blue Economy countries complex.

Central to this approach, and within the context of people-orientated sustainability (Attri and Bohler-Muller, 2018), is the principle of social justice through fairness (equity) and inclusivity. The aforesaid echoes strongly with the SDGs’ sentiment (see SDG 14) to ensure long-term sustainability by:

  • Enhancing and leveraging newly received benefits from the ocean environments to the benefit of all (inclusivity) through activities such as bioprospecting, allocated fishing quotas or rights, oil and mineral extraction agreements;
  • Fostering national equality (parity which includes gender equity), allowing for inclusive growth associated with decent employment for all; and
  • Having strong international governance structures and measurements in place to specifically guide the developing country regimes for nearby seabed development. This relates to the management of their rights and interests to be properly sanctioned in the expansion of their national waters beyond the current state dominion.

Keen et al. (2018) provide a useful overview of the Blue Economy. As expected, the three main sustainable components (economic, social alias community and ecosystem) underpin the core Blue Economy aspects. These components are complemented by enabling institutional arrangements as well as technological capacity, reflecting the linkages within such a multi-scalar model. The three predominant concepts that are important to oversee this sustainable development framework are: a) agency, b) power, and c) politics.

As such, we can contextualise and link these concepts within the domain of development studies in the following manner (although not limited to): the need for agency through institutional platforms (e.g. multi-stakeholder initiatives), power relations (e.g. gender), influencing the political economy (e.g. the role of the developmental state), political ecology (e.g. ecosystem resilience), and the role of technology (e.g. innovation).

Notable is the acknowledgement of the importance of diversity (cultural values) and gender equity. The Indian Ocean Rim Association’s (IORA) Declaration on Gender Equality and Women’s Economic Empowerment, adopted at the 16th Council of Ministers Meeting in 2016 (Bali, Indonesia), affirmed the overall commitment towards the promotion of women’s rights (Verma, 2018). The success of the Blue Economy as an exemplar for promoting inclusiveness and equity depends on how different vulnerable groups such as marginalised women, skill-deficient persons, and poor communities are incorporated. At a theoretical level, the Blue Economy is portrayed as an evolutionary concept over the long term. The benefits are foreseen to mainly depend on the theories still to be developed by the scholarly activity in this research domain (Attri, 2018).

THE BLUE CANVAS: PAINTING THE FUTURE

The Blue Economy as a sustainable development framework explains how social justice and equality can be addressed on different levels, especially for the most vulnerable. Partnerships, capacity building, infrastructure development and country-level frameworks are very important in the process of opening up new markets and allowing for greater access in a sustainable way. Barbesgaard (2018) challenges this view, labelling ‘blue growth’ as ocean grabbing. This view is supported by Brent et al. (2018), who highlight contradictions within the blue economy’s ethos and question the promise of an inclusive three-fold win on a socio-economic-ecological level.  Still, this is what Africa seems to be calling for (at least the African Union), and the Blue Economy is seen as the vessel to cross to new (socially just) opportunities by keeping a balance between factors; more growth but with less unsustainable practices.

Kenya will be hosting the first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference from 26-28 November 2018 in Nairobi.  All are invited, with special arrangements to welcome the marginalised and often excluded parties (e.g. poor communities and small-scale fishers). However, the question remains: will all have equal voices and approve the agenda? See http://www.blueeconomyconference.go.ke/ for more details.


References
Attri, V.N. (2018). The Blue Economy and the Theory of Paradigm Shifts. In Attri, V.N. and Bohler-Muller, N. (Eds). (2018). The Blue Economy Handbook of the Indian Ocean Region. (pp. 15 – 37).  Africa Institute of South Africa.
Attri, V.N. and Bohler-Muller, N. (2018). The Beginning of the Journey. In Attri, V.N. and Bohler-Muller, N. (Eds.). (2018). The Blue Economy Handbook of the Indian Ocean Region. (pp. 1 – 12). Africa Institute of South Africa.
African Union (2012). 2050 Africa’s integrated maritime strategy, version 1.0. African Union.
Barbesgaard, M. (2018). Blue growth: saviour or ocean grabbing? The Journal of Peasant Studies, 45 (1) 130 – 149.
Brent, Z.W., Barbesgaard, M. and Pedersen, C. (2018). The Blue Fix: Unmasking the politics behind the promise of blue growth. Transnational Institute.
Claudio, C. (2013). From Green to Blue Economy. Philippines Daily Enquirer 23 June 2013. Available at: http://business.inquirer.net/128587/from-green-to-blue-economy [Accessed 23 Augustus 2018].
Keen, M.R., Schwarz A-M and Wini-Simeon. Towards defining the Blue Economy: Practical lessons from Pacific Ocean governance. Marine policy, 88 (2018), 333-341.
UNCTAD. (2014). The Oceans Economy: Opportunities and Challenges for Small Island Developing States. United Nations Publications.
Verma, N. (2018). Integrating a Gender Perspective into the Blue Economy. In Attri, V.N. and Bohler-Muller, N. (Eds.). (2018). The Blue Economy Handbook of the Indian Ocean Region. (pp. 98 – 124). Africa Institute of South Africa.
UNECA. (2016). Africa’s Blue Economy: A Policy Handbook. Economic Commission for Africa.

This blog article is part of a series related to the Development Dialogue 2018 Conference that was recently held at the ISS.


JS Photo #1

About the author:

Johan Spamer is a researcher at ISS in the domain of multi-stakeholders initiatives (MSIs), inclusive development and innovation, specifically within the Blue Economy.