In a nutshell

Communities are often at the front line of children's protection, so it is appropriate for them to take non-formal steps to protect children.

For example, community members might help lost children to find their way, rescue children who are at risk of getting swept away by a flood, or encourage children who have dropped out of school to continue their education.

However, communities are often poorly equipped to deal with criminal cases, such as the rape of a child by a stranger. In these cases, they need the support of authorities. In general, government services can help to support children in communities and complement community action.

Community members may also know that the law prohibits certain practices, such as child marriage, but they may continue the practice because it fits with the community norms and system. Such a misalignment between community systems and national laws can enable violations of children's rights.

For these and other reasons, NGOs facilitating a community-led approach should help link communities with the wider child protection system. A simple step is to ask communities who might be able to help them to achieve their self-selected goals in reducing harms to children.

The ensuing discussions frequently identify district or provincial government actors as potentially helpful, thereby opening the door to dialogue and problem solving with those formal systems.

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