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.
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.
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.
Why should children be key actors in a community-led process?
Children can be a valuable resource in designing and implementing child protection work. Their direct experience of what children face makes it essential to involve them in discussions and decisions about effective community action.