In a nutshell

In many community-based NGO projects, children participate in the activities but do not help lead them. It is the adults who make the key decisions. Even when children are involved in making decisions, it is often only in a limited way.

For example, when an NGO sets up a kid’s club, children may be allowed to decide on the activities of a club. But these are usually seen by adults as “children's activities,” removed from the main decision-making and priorities of the community. In short, the children's clubs are children's spaces, not community spaces.

A community-led approach takes child participation to the next level. It enables children's leadership and repositions children as responsible community citizens and change agents.

Because the emphasis is on the community addressing its own concerns, community members are more likely to listen to girls and boys in order to learn their views on harms to children. As the discussions continue about what to do to address these harms, it is natural for children to play a leadership role.

For example, if a community chooses to address the issue of teenage pregnancy, community members will probably recognize that ending teenage pregnancy requires concerted action by the teenagers who are actually involved in the sexual activity and the pregnancies.

As children help to develop actions and solutions to the problems being discussed, they will come to be seen as responsible citizens—people who care about the community. As a result, their activities are not seen as “children's activities” but as community activities.

This approach helps to build collaboration across generations, and to reduce the tensions and power imbalances that can divide young people and adults. Since the community actions are collectively decided and owned by a large part of the community, the steps that young people take to support these actions are seen not as a power grab by young people but as a means of helping to achieve collective priorities.

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