Welcome to the second piece in our ‘Strategy Spotlight’ series which marks the launch of our new strategy. In this blog Vicky Ferguson, our Head of Safeguarding, Training and Learning, talks about our how our child-centred approach runs throughout all areas of our work and strategic commitment to see every child as a child first.
Imagine for a moment you are playing with a child. Whatever you are playing you will most likely be celebrating them, focusing on their strengths and skills so you can build their self-esteem and self-worth to become the best version of themselves.
Now, think about the children Chance for Childhood works with. Many of them have had an incredibly difficult start to their lives for a range of reasons. Most of them will not have had the support that they need to overcome that difficult start. Take a moment to think of the traumas of your life and the support you needed to move on positively. You were able to leave that trauma behind and it did not define you in stories and pictures that were shared. The children INGOs support, do not get that privilege, as many organisations choose to focus on their traumas and deficits to raise awareness of their work. Often in the eyes of INGO communications, a child does not get to just be child but a child experiencing a difficult moment in their life. Even their successes are tied to their lived experiences of trauma or challenges. Their achievements are never standalone but are linked to the worst moments of their lives. Unsurprisingly, this label can damage children in the way they see themselves and, how others see them.
We also cannot forget the power dynamics at play when INGOs talk about children in an African context. For years, negative stereotypes have been perpetuated that label African children and communities as vulnerable, helpless and who lack agency. This is not only harmful but also homogenises a continent of 54 individual countries into one ‘Africa’. At Chance for Childhood, we recognise the damage this stereotyping can have on children and communities. As part of our commitment to acknowledging and changing power dynamics, we want to ensure that every child has the right to be seen as a child first. We have already started to make changes to the way we talk about children, to give them the power to tell US how they want to be portrayed and the stories they want to be told.
Being child centred runs much deeper than just the words we use. It is also about how we approach our work. To quote the mantra of the disability movement, ‘Nothing about us, without us’; to truly to make lasting change our programmes centre on children and their voices. Programmes are designed based on feedback and in consultation with children and communities. Just as critical is our commitment to ensure that our programmes take into account the many factors that may lead to a child’s current situation . By recognising this intersectionality in our programme design and implementation we are able to address issues faced by each child holistically. This allows us to create truly sustainable solutions and deep meaningful change for children, families and communities. This approach ensures that children’s rights are upheld in all areas of our work.
We have always believed that a child must be a child first no matter what their experiences are or where they are from. Children and young people must be celebrated and encouraged during their childhood where their strengths are recognised. Ask yourself how you would feel about yourself if you were constantly reminded of the worst time of your life instead of praised for who you are.
It is critical in an ever-growing digital world that we move away from defining the children we support by the situation they find themselves in and move to seeing them as individuals with skills and talents who just happened to be in this situation. This is why being child-centred is such a critical part of our work and our strategy. And because it is one of our core values, it runs through every area of our work, including our language and communications. We want our work to recognise and celebrate the skills and talents of every child we work with. We will not perpetuate the victim narrative. We believe it is more powerful to focus on children’s hopes and dreams.