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Child participation groups lead revolution in Guinea-Bissau

Child participation group mapping out community problems. PHOTO: Plan staff
Child participation group mapping out community problems.

PHOTO: Plan staff
July 13, 2010

4 years ago, ChildPro, a Plan invented, child-centered methodology developed in the Americas, was introduced in Guinea-Bissau. Using this method, Plan has set up child participation groups (GPIs) in 53 communities.

Now Plan’s latest evaluation tells us that the groups are leading a quiet revolution through child-centered community development across the country.

The impact of this project has been enormous for the children and for the wider community. Children have become active agents of change rather than passive recipients of aid. It has also come at a relatively low cost – just $50 per child.

Behavior and attitudes are changing

Each child participation group counts 15 girls and 15 boys aged between 12 and 18. Members receive a week’s training in child rights and responsibilities, child participation and conflict resolution. They then diagnose their community’s problems and plan action.

This training has produced substantial changes in the children’s behavior, which have really impressed the adults and allowed them to also change in positive ways. Relationships between adults and children have improved, as the children have learned communicate better with others and are relating to the adults and to each other better. This ability to express themselves has reduced violence between children, between adults and children, and even between adults. There is now much less violence against children.

Adults and children’s attitudes have changed to the extent that children can now call meetings to address any community issues. Adults listen to them and take them seriously and together they discuss and plan possible solutions. This is an excellent preparation for good citizenship, democracy and children’s futures as parents and community leaders.

So what do the children do?

They clean their homes, villages and water sources. They have weekly house inspections, award the national flag to the cleanest and child friendliest home, and results are announced on local radio. They also campaign for the use of mosquito nets and hand washing, which has led to a reduction in diarrhea and malaria.

They raise awareness on issues relating to child rights and responsibilities: treating children well, child abuse, early/forced marriage, gender equity, girls’ education, female genital cutting, vaccination, antenatal care and birth registration.

Almost all the children now go to school and several communities have asked for kindergartens as well.

 

Another world

Adults are delighted with what has been achieved. A mother from Canssamba summarized: “It is as though we are in another world, since the children started their GPI activities.”

Children have initiated income generating activities to support their actions, changed their own mentality as well as that of their families with respect to children, and improved relationships between them. At the same time, the parents are finding them more respectful, which also leads to improved relations.

Gradually, this project is being spread to more and more communities in Guinea Bissau and we hope that each of them will join the revolution.

Read the full report on the Child Participation Groups project in Guinea-Bissau.