Better education helps to cope with life’s challenges, said Anannia Admassu from CHADET
At the last INGO Children’s Participation Forum, organised by Child to Child on 10th December, participants had an opportunity to meet Anannia Admassu, Director of the organisation CHADET which works to curb girls’ migration in Northern Ethiopia. Child to Child interviewed Anannia to learn about CHADET’s work and their experience conducting research with younger children, a case study which appeared in the Steps to Engaging Young Children in Research toolkit, a Bernard van Leer Foundation publication.
The organisation CHADET works on improving the lives of street and working children. In Northern Ethiopia, older children (over ten) are particularly prone to migration to the big cities which exposes children to a range of potential harms. To address this issue, CHADET initially focused on the capital Addis Ababa. However, it quickly realised that most child victims of sexual exploitation had migrated from small northern villages so they decided to tackle the root of the problem and instead focus their efforts on preventing children migrating from these rural communities. By enhancing education, they are seeking to reduce the numbers of children leaving in the belief that a better life awaits them in the big city.
Child to Child: Can you please tell us why you decided to work with young children as well as the older children, likely to migrate, in your project?
Anannia: We feel that it’s likely that the younger children will be also exposed to the same kind of problems when they grow up (and want to migrate). At CHADET we are convinced that doing some work at an early age helps to make the children aware of the risks of migration and so on. But whenever we target children, we also target their parents, because the parents and other adults ensure the children attend school.
Child to Child: Have you encountered many barriers for adults to understand the value of their children’s education? Has it helped decrease girls’ migration?
Anannia: One of the problems we identified is the low value attached to children’s education, so now we are trying to improve this. We believe that unless the children come across something which is really beyond their control, they will stick to their education. Concerning migration, it’s not a simple matter of choice but the situation that forces migration. But now, if we create a context in which children are very much interested in their education and, in addition, the parents are really supportive, things will change – but it’s not easy.
Child to Child: So have you seen change already in the communities?
Anannia: I can tell you about one of the transformations that education brought, in the way they think – and I am not only saying in the formal, classroom education, but also in the interactions the girls have with the boys, in the Good Brothers Clubs for example. So the girls have said that their brothers and fathers could contribute to bring about significant changes in their lives. They literally told us: “If you tell us (the importance of education), that’s good, but unless the men, the boys, are convinced, our lives won’t be changing.” So while we are working with the girls, we are also working with the boys and their fathers, to support the girls in their education. We work with the teachers too. There has to be an enabling environment in the school. A very good example would be that there are often no separate toilets for boys and girls. So during their menstrual periods the girls tend to stay home, because they don’t feel comfortable. Now this project has set up separate toilets for boys and girls – and, as a matter of fact, the toilets we set up for the girls are much better!
Child to Child: Can you please tell us how participatory the project is?
Anannia: The strategy we are following is that we know generally what the end result of engagement should be. We identify key influential individuals in the community, like the religious leaders, opinion leaders. We select participants in such a way that they will be enthusiastic and involved and take things forward: they will have come up with a plan. It is highly participatory and we track what they have planned to do and whether they are doing it or not. Whenever we engage members of the community as part of this exercise, we, as facilitators, make sure that they set up a clear action plan. When you are engaged in activities that are to do with attitude change, behavioural change, it takes time.
Child to Child: Do the children also come up with an action plan?
Anannia: Not the very young children actually but the girls in the schools have their own action plan and they prepare reports: what they did and what they did not do and so on. What we have learned from all this exercise is that people, once given an opportunity, demonstrate that they can do much, and it’s working.
Child to Child: Why did you decide to involve young children in your research, considering that they are not yet those who migrate?
Anannia: For one thing, young children are not going to hide anything; they don’t hide their feelings, they’re open. So by doing research with young children you get real information on their views. There may also be things in the project which we have overlooked – for example the young children told us that the playground was not large enough for everyone. And we were not aware of this. It was a learning exercise for all of us; even I hadn’t expected that we would generate important information from the younger children.
Child to Child: What type of participatory activities did you use for the research with young children
Anannia: We used drawings, films and role-plays, in which they are really active participants, ensuring a really good environment for the children to participate in without feeling uncomfortable. It was really participatory. We made sure that the girls wouldn’t be intimidated by the boys; we separated the boys and the girls, and eventually we brought them back together.
To learn more about doing research with young children, you can read the blog about the last INGO Children’s Participation Forum.