Tag Archives children

What Biden’s Presidency Could Mean for Children

What Biden’s Presidency Could Mean for Children

As soon as US president Joe Biden took office in January this year, he set about signing dozens of executive orders with the aim of reversing some of the most ...

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.

Moria’s male refugees need help just as much as anyone else

Moria’s male refugees need help just as much as anyone else

The recent fire that razed refugee camp Moria in Greece has left around 13,000 refugees homeless and fleeing once again—this time to an unknown destination where they hope to find ...

COVID-19 | How ‘COVID-19 hunger’ threatens the future of many by Jimena Pacheco

COVID-19 | How ‘COVID-19 hunger’ threatens the future of many by Jimena Pacheco

By Posted on

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses and lockdowns continue, even more people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition due to their inability to access nutritious food. The pandemic has revealed the ...

Does attending preschool benefit Indian children at a later stage? by Saikat Ghosh

Despite having one of the world’s largest early childhood education and care program named ‘Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)’ in operation since 1975, the impact of such provisions on children’s later development is still largely unknown in India. Empirical evidence from India suggests that attending preschool makes children more sociable but does not improve their cognitive ability.


Does Early Childhood Education (ECE) matter?

Childhood is the most important phase of human life and the strong foundation made during the early years can lead to improvements in children’s cognitive and social development. It has already been witnessed that ECE contributes substantially to children’s development and well-being and children attending early education programs is associated with improved performance in school1, 2. ECE is considered extremely effective for children from disadvantaged backgrounds as it can narrow the gap in early development between children from different socio-economic classes3.

On the contrary, evidence also suggests that early, extensive, and continuous nonmaternal care may have some development risks for young children and the larger society4, 5. Although ECE may increase cognitive skills at school entry, it may also increase behavioural problems and reduces self-control6. Therefore, there also exist some sort of disagreements regarding the effects of ECE programs on children’s development.

Based on the above backdrop, a study was recently conducted to understand whether attending preschool provide any benefit to children at the later stage of their life. Based on a sample of 1369 first graders, the study took place in India which is home of approximately twenty percent of the world’s child population in the age group of 0-6 years. The key question asked in this context was: do the children who attended preschool possess greater skills at the primary school level? Children’s accumulation of cognitive and social skills was assessed by respective class teachers using twelve indicators such as their attention towards class, ability to remember lessons, friendliness towards peers, etc.

Does attending preschool help Indian children?

The results from the study suggest that the ECE provisions in India are able to contribute to child development, but only partially. Children who attended preschool were found performing better, but this association was not uniform over different skill types. Although attending preschool seems to help children in improving their social skills, there was no such effect with respect to cognitive skills. Furthermore, in contrast to the parental notion about the private preschools being better than the ICDS ones, there was no such evidence found of any of the preschools having a relative edge over the other.

Given the fact that not only preschool attendance but also the quality of the preschool matters, one can hold the quality of preschools in India as responsible for not being able to provide any cognitive incentive to children. The focus of the ICDS programme seems more on the feeding aspects than on promoting behavioural change in childcare practices. The people responsible in these settings are often not very well educated and do not have the required skills to take on this responsibility7( p.30). Besides, the curriculum followed in the private preschools were also criticized for its quality and suitability for children8, 9. Therefore, both types of preschools seem lacking the quality to contribute to children’s cognitive development.

On the other hand, regardless of the quality of care and curriculum, attending preschool allows children to interact and communicate with peers and integrate themselves. Normatively, first friendships are established during the preschool years, and the acquisition of social skills such as helping and sharing, etc. during preschool predict later school engagement and academic success10, 11.

Therefore, by providing an improved and more scientific curriculum to the children, ECE provisions in India can help children in greater skill accumulation. Taking into account that parents mainly send their children to preschool for early education and school readiness12, emphasizing on the educational component of the ICDS programme could attract more parents towards it. Given the fact that the ICDS programme is mainly targeting the marginalized section of the society, expanding its coverage and improving the quality of service provisions would certainly help children from the disadvantaged backgrounds to build a strong foundation.


References:
  1. Weiland, C. & Yoshikawa, H. (2013). Impacts of a prekindergarten program on children’s mathematics, language, literacy, executive function, and emotional skills. Child Development, 84(6), 2112–2130.
  2. DeCicca, P. & Smith, J. D. (2011). The long-run impacts of early childhood education: Evidence from a failed policy experiment. National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 17085.
  3. UNICEF (2016). The state of the world’s children: A fare chance for every child. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_SOWC_2016.pdf
  4. Belsky, J. (2002). Quantity counts: Amount of child care and children’s socioeconomic development. Development and Behavioural Pediatrics, 23(3): 167-170.
  5. Belsky, J. (2001). Developmental risks (still) associated with early child care. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry & Allied Discipline, 42(7): 845—859.
  6. Magnuson, K. A., Ruhm, C. J. & Waldfogel, J. (2004). Does prekindergarten improve school preparation and performance?. NBER Working Paper No. 10452
  7. UNESCO (2006). Select issues concerning ECCE India. Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007, Strong foundations: early childhood care and education.
  8. Kaul, V. & Sankar, D. (2009). Early childhood care and education in India’. New Delhi: NUEPA.
  9. Swaminathan, M. (1998). The First Five Years: A Critical Perspective on Early Childhood Care and Education in India. New Delhi: SAGE.
  10. Howes, C., Hamilton, C. E., & Philipsen, L. C. (1998). Stability and continuity of child-caregiver and child-peer relationships. Child Development, 69, 418–426.
  11. Ladd, G. W., Price, J. M., & Hart, C. H. (1988). Predicting preschoolers’ peer status from their playground behaviors. Child Development, 59, 986–992.
  12. Ghosh, S. (2019). Inequalities in demand and access to early childhood education in India. International Journal of Early Childhood. DOI: 1007/s13158-019-00241-8

    Image Credit: Jay Galvin on Flickr


About the Author:

saikatDr. Saikat Ghosh is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LifBi), Germany where he is leading a project focusing on early childhood education in India.  He is a former ISS Graduate (2011-12) and awarded his Ph.D. from the University of Bamberg in 2018. His research interest centers on poverty, education, inequality, and social policy analysis with a particular focus on developing countries. Formerly, he has worked for the Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS), Germany, UNU-WIDER, Helsinki, and the State Government of West Bengal, India.

Children as experts: rethinking how we produce knowledge by Kristen Cheney

Children as experts: rethinking how we produce knowledge by Kristen Cheney

Most research on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and rights is adult-led and adult-centred, not only ignoring young voices but denying diversity amongst young people. But a new project co-led ...

The Orphan Industrial Complex comes home to roost in America by Kristen Cheney and Karen Smith Rotabi

The Orphan Industrial Complex comes home to roost in America by Kristen Cheney and Karen Smith Rotabi

The recent removal of migrant children from their parents at the southern US border has caused great public outcry, but Kristen Cheney and Karen Smith Rotabi argue that it could ...