On July 9, the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD)-led Connect4Change consortium, together with preferred partner Text to Change and the Forum for African Women Educationalists in Malawi
(FAWEMA), launched a campaign aimed at creating an environment in which children’s rights are recognized and respected. The initiative uses ICTs to map the local situation of children, particularly in schools and focusing on girls, to raise community awareness of child abuse and to advocate for children’s rights. It empowers the community to voice their concerns and puts a structure in place for facilitating follow-up and feedback.
In this campaign, SMS and radio are used to mobilize communities around issues affecting children’s rights and education. Parents, teachers and other community members are encouraged to enrol in a mobile platform informing and surveying participants on various children’s rights topics, and both SMS and radio are used to further raise awareness and sensitize the community to these issues. The messages focus on child abuse in many forms, including but not limited to child marriage, child labor, sexual harassment and severe punishments by teachers. A toll free line has been designed to report incidents of child abuse, and reported cases are to be followed up by linking to the appropriate authorities such as the Victim Support Unit, mother groups or the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare.
Our experience shows that inclusion of all community stakeholders from the beginning is crucial in advocacy work. Furthermore, the diversity of issues addressed by this campaign requires the engagement of all community stakeholders to support and hold each other accountable to their shared goals. For these reasons, IICD worked to include not only local authorities, but also school management committees, teachers, parent-teacher associations, teacher training colleges and primary education advisors in the workflow.
Advocacy initiatives such as this child protection campaign are an important part of the ICT4D
work that IICD pursues. Keeping issues such as child abuse on political and community agendas is a central component of bringing about sustainable social changes in the countries in which they work. In this initiative, by advocating children’s rights via an ICT platform, parents and educators in the community become better equipped to deal with these concerns and offer their children a safer environment for learning and living.