In a nutshell

When they are facilitated well, community-led approaches support children's rights and do not cause harm to children.

In the three countries (Sierra Leone, Kenya, and India) where community-led approaches have been tested most systematically, communities all chose actions that were very much in the best interests of children and addressed issues of teenage pregnancy, early sex, and child marriage, respectively.

Skilled facilitators work with an eye toward protecting children's rights, even if they do not specifically refer to “child rights.”

For example, a community member might say during a discussion, “We have a problem here with boys violating girls sexually, and to prevent this, we parents have decided to marry our daughters at an early age.”
Knowing that a number of parents hold different views relative to this speaker, the facilitator could invite discussion of other options and also of the strengths and drawbacks of each option. This would likely bring up the idea that early marriage harms girls’ health and well-being. Since communities are rarely in complete agreement that early marriage is good for girls (or boys), it would not become a widely agreed community action.

If your organization did have concerns, however, you could simply establish a criterion that all community-led actions must be consistent with children's rights.

Community-led approaches can also be used to change social norms in ways that support children's rights and well-being.

For example, communities in India chose child marriage as the harm they wished to address through community action, even though early marriage was still a social norm in certain sections of the communities. But these communities were already undergoing change, and the community-led process enabled them to take steps to help transform the norms that supported child marriage.

This change from within, which is based in no small part on collective dialogue and critical reflection, is more likely to change harmful traditional practices than a top-down approach could.

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