Let Children Be Children: Stories on Child Protection Initiatives by African Scouts
As we commemorate World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June, we would like to share various actions that Scouts in the Africa Region are taking to raise awareness against child labour, promote child protection as well as champion the cause of quality education through the non-formal learning methods of the Scouting programme.
Through World Scouting’s flagship initiative, Messengers of Peace – which has had great impact in the Africa region, Scouts have not only been helping to address the issues of conflict resolution and peace building but have gone beyond to empower young people and communities in unprecedented ways. From East to West, North to South, African Scouts are saying “NO to Child Labour, YES to Quality Education!”
Kenya: Since 1992, Kenya Scouts Association has been implementing the Extension Scouting Programme (ESP) nationwide to reach out to children in especially difficult circumstances (CEDC). The programme, which is supported by Scouts Canada and other well-wishers, has so far revealed that a full integration of a Kenyan child from a difficult background into the Scout Movement can be a transformational experience for the child. Some street children have been reunited with their parents; others offered educational support up to university level; while others benefited by acquiring skills and knowledge in tailoring, rabbit rearing, poultry rearing and baking among others.
To date, over 4000 young people have come under the wings of some 120 ESP units nationwide. These children are either victims of conflicts and calamity (e.g. refugees, tribal clashes), abuse and exploitation (sexual abuse and child labour), infection or affected by HIV & AIDS, drugs and delinquency, or children living in the streets, children with physical and mental challenges, abandoned and neglected children, as well as orphans.
D. R. Congo: Borrowing from the success of the Extension Scouting Programme in Kenya, the Scouts of the Democratic Republic of Congo initiated a project to restore the value system and social moral fabric through the rehabilitation and reintegration of street children and former child soldiers. This goes hand-in-hand with strengthening the capacity of the National Scout Organization to reach out to Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances.
The target of this pilot phase is to rehabilitate 500 former child soldiers and 1000 street children, with potential for up-scaling across the country. The rehabilitation of these children is expected to contribute to peace and acceptance within the society, which is affected by war and has many children and young people in need of mentoring, empowerment and support to help them to become responsible citizens.
Great Lakes Region: For the past 20 years, the Great Lakes region (Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo) has been defined by internal and external conflicts. These conflicts have resulted in increased poverty, environmental deterioration, social marginalisation of the younger population and increased distrust between ethnic communities and the neighbouring population.
For the past six years, Scouts and Guides associations of the region have come together to promote peace and sustainable social development under the Amahoro-Amani Project. This synergy has resulted in the establishment of hundreds of peace clubs created and run by the young community mediators.
By building strong relationships and involving the local communities and leaders, these clubs are playing a very critical role in addressing issues of youth social mobilisation, poverty response, environmental management and peace education.
This is progressively building confidence and strengthening inter-community cohabitation and the role of youth in leading the reconciliation process. This project has greatly contributed to reduction in the numbers of children joining the rebel fighting forces, as well as providing education that improves their awareness and rehabilitation.
Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Niger, Uganda, South Africa and South Sudan: The Food For Life (FFL) Project was conceptualised to respond to the food crisis facing many African countries. The solution lies in the population being able to produce enough food for their families amid scarce resources such as water, land and reliance on natural weather patterns. The FFL Project was initiated with the aim of contributing to the fight against hunger in Africa by equipping young people (6 to 18 years old Scouts) with agricultural skills and knowledge, as relevant given their age, to produce their own food. The project has been implemented in 11 countries namely: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Niger, Uganda, South Africa and South Sudan.
In Malawi, apart from imparting agricultural knowledge and skills to young people, the project targets families with orphans and vulnerable children. The families are therefore equipped to meet their food needs and supplement the family income through the agricultural skills and knowledge learned without having to resort to child labour.
In war-torn South Sudan, where educational systems are not fully developed as yet, Scouting through such projects offers the children and young people informal and engaging opportunities to learn useful skills. This also helps to prevent them from becoming child soldiers as has been the case over the years.
Policies: To support the protection of children in especially difficult circumstances from the risks of exposure to child labour and related activities, many NSOs have developed policies to guide the conduct of all those who interact with young people in Scouting activities.
The World Scout Bureau – Africa Regional Office, for instance, has developed the Regional Safe From Harm Manual to support education on child protection. NSOs like Kenya Scouts Association (KSA) and Scouts South Africa (SSA) are among those who have such policies in place. KSA has developed the Extension Scouting Programme Policy while SSA has a Child Protection Policy in place.
The increased involvement of Scouts as active Messengers of Peace, who in many instances implement projects with children of school-going age, has enabled them to transfer knowledge and skills to these children. Through child rights education and awareness on child abuse, some children now know what to do when they feel insecure and threatened by the actions of older people. This kind of empowerment and social awareness is a great contributor to the prevention of socially harmful practices against children.
You too can join the fight against child labour by being informed about the problem and its impact on your local community and beyond, raising awareness and reaching out to mobilise action against child labour and sharing your stories to inspire others.
We urge you to take advantage of the partnership between WOSM and the International Labour Organization (ILO-IPEC) to raise awareness on the need to end child labour and provide quality education.