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Children Are Experts in Their Own Lives: Child Participation across CP Programming during IDOs

Learners identify the centrality of child participation and explore participatory activities for children that can be adapted during COVID-19.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, child-focused organizations found it harder than ever to engage children and ensure children’s participation due to public health measures preventing usual approaches.

There are many excellent participatory tools for engaging children in both the development and humanitarian sectors. It is important to be able to adapt existing participatory tools for use during IDOs such as COVID-19.

As well as adapting approaches to ensure continued meaningful participation, organizations should listen to the messages that children and young people share directly through a variety of means.

Explore the guide below on contextualizing and adapting child participation during IDOs:

A Guide to Contextualizing and Adapting Child Participation during IDOs

Step 1:

Review and consider the series of questions below as a foundation to adapting tools and approaches.

Key Questions for Adapting Participatory Tools and Approaches to COVID-19 and other IDOs

Stage of IDO response

  • What phase of the IDO cycle are you currently in?
  • What public health measures have been implemented in your context?
  • What are the implications of these public health measures on meeting or gathering with children?

Pre-existing risks and vulnerabilities

  • What pre-existing risks to children have been amplified by the IDO in your context (e.g., social exclusion, SGBV, mental health)?
  • Where in the program cycle are children being marginalized or excluded from participation? How can you involve those who are being left behind?

Access to technology

  • Do children have access to mobile devices and data and/or computers and the internet (e.g., do they own a mobile, are they using parents’ phones in the home, do they have access through relatives)?
  • What applications are children using to connect to one another (e.g., WhatsApp, TikTok, Facebook)?
  • Do the preferences for communications applications differ by gender, age, disability or diversity?
  • What access do children with different types of disabilities have to internet-based applications or other communication mechanisms?
  • Do you need to find creative no-tech or low-tech ways to meaningfully engage children (e.g., community radio call-in shows or community mural projects where children co-create a piece, one artist at a time)?

Access through essential workers

  • If you are unable to meet with children directly but can engage with them through essential community workers, what simple message can you safely relay and how?
Options:
  • Include pamphlets, notes or surveys in the baskets of essential workers who may visit children and families.
  • Include awareness posters designed by children on water or food delivery trucks. Work with established peer facilitators to go door-to-door.

Face-face meetings

  • If you are able to meet with children directly, what size group is allowed by public health measures?
  • Is there an outdoor space where children can stay physically distanced?
  • Where is it safe to host activities?
  • What safety measures need to be put in place (e.g., specified distance between participants of any activities, wearing of masks, washing hands on arrival and departure)?
  • What safety equipment (e.g.. masks, hand sanitizer) is needed to adhere to public health measures?

Step 2:

After you have thought through the above questions, take an existing tool you have for engaging children that you think might work well for your situation.

Step 3:

Think through what still works and what needs to change. Consider that children of different ages, genders and disabilities might need a variety of options to ensure their participation. Work with children to adapt activities wherever possible.

Step 4:

Complete a strengths and risk assessment prior to planning and implementing the activity. See Tool 3.3: Involving Children in Assessing and Responding to Risks and Resources for more information.

Considerations for facilitating face-to-face activities (where possible) include providing:

  • A safe location with space for required social distancing measures.

  • Required safety materials, such as masks, hand sanitizer, etc.

  • Fun ways to mark social distancing, such as hula-hoops, string or natural objects (rocks, leaves, etc.).

Considerations for adapting methods for remote or online activities include:

  • Using online video conferencing, phone calls, text messages, WhatsApp, or other social networking or software applications used by children in your context. (We will consider online safeguarding measures in Week 3 of this course.)

  • Using remote approaches such as home-based activities with a drop-off point for sharing outputs in contexts with low levels of technology adoption or limited internet connection (e.g. children produce a body-mapping drawing and then leave it at a drop – off point for a community or staff member to collect).

  • Remembering that existing tools can be adapted to work remotely – either on or offline.

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Protecting Children during COVID-19 and other Infectious Disease Outbreaks

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