Earlier this year we launched our 2025 strategy, in which we made clear our commitment to being a child-centred organisation. But what do we really mean when we say child-centred? For Chance for Childhood, it means that we always put the children we work with at the centre of our decision making. We believe that it is only by centring the voices of children in all our work, that we can seek to rebalance the unequal power dynamics that dictate their lives.
Why? Because children are the experts in their own lives, they understand what they need and we need to listen to them when we are making decisions that impact their lives.
Those unequal power dynamics are never more present than when we share images and stories of the children we work with. In this blog Vicky Ferguson, Head of Safeguarding, Learning and Training; and Director of the OverExposed campaign, talks about how conversations with children helped to inform the OverExposed campaign:
In preparation for our #OverExposed campaign it was critical we listened to the children and young people we support. The decisions we make about how we tell their stories impacts them directly. We needed to hear what they thought about the process and the safeguards we put in place.
To achieve this, we held focus groups in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, with children in refugee settings, living on the streets, in the juvenile justice system and experiencing disabilities. It was critical we heard from a range of children with different lived experiences. Colleagues and partners created safe and inclusive spaces so children could talk freely to us about how they felt.
The feedback we gathered during sessions highlighted the unequal power dynamics that dictate children’s lives and the importance of how we manage this power properly and respectfully.
80% of the children we talked to told us they didn’t know why or how their photos are used. Most of the children also said they don’t understand why their names are changed in photos
Some are afraid their photos may be used for unfair reasons and only show the negative side of their circumstances.
Our partner, Glad’s House Kenya, who inspired the conversations that started OverExposed highlighted in their session how important it is to ensure children are aware of what can happen to their images. One young person told us:
“Changing names is good because someone can easily search and find you on Facebook. If the name is hidden, no one can understand what you went through in the past” You can read more about the challenges of street connected children and image use in Siân Wynne’s blog here
Discussions also raised the importance of telling the whole story. For example, in Rwanda children also told us they want people to hear that while the country has changed for the better, there are still children who need some support in certain areas of life.
Feedback from the focus groups shows us that it is critical to ensure that children truly understand not just where their photos are being used but also the rights they have over their pictures, privacy, and story. So much more work needs to be done to ensure that everyone sharing their image or story fully understands the risks of being identifiable on the Internet so that they can give fully informed consent.
The #OverExposed campaign considers the power we hold over communities we support when we ask them to take that picture. How can you say no to the person or the organisation that may offer you the last possibility of change? There’s huge power in that position and there is a huge responsibility in how we use that power.
If and when a child chooses to share their story with another person, it should be seen as huge privilege, not an opportunity to create a marketing campaign. It is only when we reframe our thinking that we are able to truly put child-rights at the centre of our storytelling.
#OverExposed is an opportunity for INGOs to come to together to discuss storytelling and to reframe our collective thinking by changing the conversation on how children are represented in campaigns.
We are calling on individuals and organisations to take our voluntary pledge to commit to ethical, child-centred, storytelling. You can show your support for the #OverExposed campaign by taking the pledge online today and putting child-rights in the picture.