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Building child and youth participation in PNG

Three of us travelled to Port Moresby last week to work with our team there, building up our capacity to involve children and youth as active participants in activities that ChildFund supports. This effort is part of our commitment to working on the causes of child poverty – why it exists, how it is perpetuated from generation to generation.

Not only is participation key to overcoming poverty – that’s a good reason for focusing on it, but we also know that participation is essential to program effectiveness and sustainability. Not to mention that it is a basic, fundamental human right – for children and youth, this is spelt out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Not involving people in activities that concern them is, simply, a violation of their human rights.

So we spent two days at the ChildFund office in Port Moresby, learning from each other about how we can enhance child and youth participation through the project cycle, and learning from other ChildFund Alliance members’ experience. Importantly, we also learned from other agencies, organisations that were kind enough to come to our workshop and share their experience – Oxfam, the World Bank, World Vision, and the PNG government itself, all gave informative and inspirational presentations. Of particular interest, to me personally, was the presentation given by Ipul Powesau of the Papua New Guinea Disabled Peoples Association; here we learned about participation and the power of collective action for a particular, excluded group.

And we spent time learning the tools, attitudes and approaches we will need to build the voice and participation of the people we work with in the field – especially children and youth.

Our third day was practical. We took what we learned in the first two days of the workshop out to Laloki – where ChildFund is working with a local literacy school to support vulnerable children from Baruni waste dump and the local community – and we met with over 50 children and youth to learn about their ideas for the rehabilitation of their school, the gardens, the residence, etc.

It was an action-packed morning. After an hour spent in the hot sun connecting with the kids through soccer, rugby and singing, we started the consultation by getting their consent for working with us that day. We broke into five groups – by age and gender – and used the range of techniques that we had learned, getting input from the kids to help us finalise project preparations. The group I was in gave feedback through a focus group and also drew maps of the site – as it is, and as they would like to see it in the future. You can see the kids showing off one of their maps in the photo below.

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