Monday, August 25, 2008

FACC is Funded!


In an earlier post, I mentioned that I had developed a proposal on behalf of the Fantsuam Foundation for the creation of the Fantsuam Advocacy Centre for Children (FACC), an organization dedicated to raising awareness of children’s rights and lobbying for changes to the legislation in order to increase the protection given to them. We have now received the good news that the Canadian government, through its international development agency, CIDA, has agreed to fund the proposal! This is very good news, and the Foundation is eager to get started on the project. Though my time at the Foundation is growing short, I hope to assist with the initial project setup that will be completed during my remaining two months here.

What follows is an excerpt from the proposal that describes the need for the project and an overview of how the project will seek to address these concerns. Anyone interested in further details can drop me a note at glenndodge@hotmail.com.

The Need for Advocacy on Behalf of Children in Nigeria

Children in the southern part of Kaduna state are regularly subjected to abuses of their human rights and do not currently have a voice to protect them against such abuses or to advocate for changes on their behalf. The abuses are widespread and harm for the children exists at the family, community and institutional levels. The types of domestic abuse to which the children are exposed cover the spectrum of mistreatment from neglect to the infliction of physical and mental cruelty. In extreme cases, children have died as a result of the injuries sustained. Of particular concern is the recent upswing in cases of children being accused of witchcraft by adults who blame them for the misfortunes they are suffering, including those who have contracted HIV and need to find an explanation that absolves them of responsibility. The Fantsuam Foundation found itself cast in the role of intervener in such a situation in January of this year, when six children in Kafanchan were accused of being witches and were in danger of being killed by their community. Had the Foundation not removed the children from that environment, there was a high probability that they would have died. This type of crisis is not limited to Kaduna state. Children throughout Nigeria are increasingly being subjected to abuse by their elders as a response to their alleged involvement with witchcraft. The level of abuse has increased to the point of attracting international media attention, as can be seen with the following link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/dec/09/tracymcveigh.theobserver.

Problems for children at the institutional level have also resulted in a dire situation, as there are currently few government programs in place that recognize the special developmental needs that children have, especially those children and youth who find themselves accused of crimes. In most cases, little or no differentiation is made between children and adult offenders, and children often find themselves incarcerated in facilities meant for much older detainees. In these cases, the children may be doubly victimized, as they may be subjected to abuse by the older inmates.

On the international stage, the state of Kaduna has represented itself poorly with respect to children’s rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child were ratified by Nigeria in 1991 and 2000, respectively. The domestication of these international agreements was facilitated through the enactment of the Child’s Rights Act 2003 by the National Assembly of Nigeria in July 2003. Such legislation represents an important step forward in the protection of the rights of children in Nigeria. However, because the issue of child’s rights protection falls within the residual list of the Nigerian Constitution, individual states within Nigeria are given exclusive jurisdiction and responsibility to make laws regarding the protection of such rights. Each state must therefore formally adopt and adapt the Child’s Rights Act 2003. Although fifteen other states have done so, Kaduna State remains one of the states that have failed to formally adopt the Act. Until it has done so, the protections afforded by the Act will remain unavailable to the children who live there. An outline of the Act can be found with the following link: http://www.unicef.org/wcaro/WCARO_Nigeria_Factsheets_CRA.pdf.

Constraints that exist in Kaduna State that will prove to be challenges for any project seeking to address the abuse of children’s rights include a fundamental lack of education and appreciation on the part of adults in the area regarding the needs of children. Children are often regarded as being no different from adults or of lesser consequence in many cases. Abuses occur because the children are seen to exist to serve the interest and pleasure of the adults and not as individual human beings. At the institutional level, the interests of children have been assigned a lower priority because they do not possess the capability to influence the direction of government. This ignorance has become ingrained in the government, so any organization seeking to change the government’s position on children’s rights will be significantly challenged to do so.

The establishment of the Fantsuam Advocacy Centre for Children (“FACC”) has as its ultimate goal the alleviation of the abuse of rights suffered by children in the southern part of Kaduna state. It seeks to achieve this goal through a two-pronged approach. The first strategy involves raising awareness of children’s rights and their abuses within the communities of southern Kaduna, with the objective of enhancing the knowledge of community members with respect to children’s rights and securing their increased commitment to the protection of these rights. Secondly, FACC intends to pursue the lobbying of all levels of government for the enforcement of current laws and policies protecting children’s rights and for the drafting and implementation of legislation where gaps exist in the protection provided. The objective of such lobbying is to ensure an effective legislative and policy framework is in place and enforced to protect the rights of children to the fullest extent possible.

With respect to its awareness raising activities, FACC will seek to set up a replicable model of education regarding children’s rights and their abuses. The key enablers of this strategy will be the national volunteers accessed through the Fantsuam Foundation’s GAIYA program, especially those younger volunteers who can act as peer educators regarding these issues. GAIYA, translated as “Gift of Labour”, is the National Volunteering program begun by the Fantsuam Foundation to encourage local volunteers to give their time and skills to their local communities. GAIYA’s work has concentrated on the fields of health and IT in the past, and the Foundation is eager to build the capacity of the volunteers in other areas as well. A curriculum regarding children’s rights and their abuses will be developed with input from local community professionals and delivered to the GAIYA volunteers. These volunteers will then be dispatched to schools and other institutions in the local area to provide the same material to students and other individuals. After a trial period conducted on a local basis to determine necessary revisions to the curriculum, the program will be gradually extended to schools and institutions throughout the three chiefdoms identified below. In order to achieve this, those GAIYA volunteers who have received the training on children’s rights will receive additional training on how to develop other educators in this area.

As the principal stakeholders in FACC, children will remain the focus of consultation as the activities are developed to ensure their appropriateness and relevance to the children’s welfare. This will be done through discussions with the children who will be participating in activities like the Children For Change drama group and the Children’s Parliament. In addition, individuals and groups identified as key stakeholders in the community and elsewhere will be consulted during the planning and implementation phases to ensure the incorporation of their input into the process as appropriate and to encourage their continued support for the project. Regular meetings of such stakeholders will be scheduled to provide briefings and receive their input. An email list of stakeholders will also be developed to provide regular updates and to give them the opportunity for comments or recommendations on the planned activities.

The Fantsuam Foundation sees itself as ideally positioned to work with the local communities to develop FACC. Its work with children in the area has developed its reputation to such a degree that it is sought for consultation where the protection of children is at issue. In conjunction with Save the Children, the Foundation established Child Protection Committees with three local communities in 2006 to help ensure that children at risk receive the protection that they need. The experience that the Foundation has developed through that initiative will prove invaluable in the work to be done with FACC.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glenn:

I'm deeply moved by your work and congratulate you on your efforts. As I might have indicated in a much earlier comment when you first described the plight of children accused of witchcraft, I have great difficulty controlling my emotions when reading about these kinds of things. How could anyone do anything that would hurt a child!? It's the most unspeakable act that an adult can perform!

No matter how I try to intellectualize the motivations of people -- such as the overwhelming power of fear in people's lives -- I cannot accept any rationale or justification for the abuse of children. At the gut level, I want to lash out and attack in the most vicious ways. But then, would I not simply be compounding the evil by replacing justice with vengeance, the law with blood-lust.

I am heartened by the idealism of youth represented by the work you do [yes, you are still in the youth category compared to my aged, somewhat over-ripe and stale cynicism]. In reading your FACC story, I immediately recalled two other groups that you might consider connecting with:

Athletes for Africa [which I have mixed feelings about -- another discussion at another time] has a spin-off group called Guluwalk. My nephew Kieran and his friend Adrian created this "initiative" [which is the best way to describe it] to raise awareness about the plight of "child soldiers" in northern Uganda [Gulu region]. I won't go into details here, but you might find an affinity between FACC and Gulu. I recommend looking at their website www.guluwalk.com.

Another thing that sparked my interest is your reference to the use of drama to raise awareness [and potentially as part of the healing process for children]. My niece Catherine [she is a graduate of the Ryerson dance program] and her boyfriend Antonio [he is a grad of the drama program], along with a group of other artists [singers, poets, etc] created a group called Project Humanity. One of their current focuses is developing mini-plays based on the life experiences of kids at risk. They work directly with the kids to write, produce, direct and perform these plays. You might find their experiences worth looking at. They just produced their first newsletter: projecthumanity@gmail.com

Insofar as I have any ideals left in my tired old body, I believe in connecting the dots: groups like yours, FACC, Gulu and Project Humanity can learn from each other and even more significantly can work together on common causes on a global basis.

Again, I thank you for the work you are doing. Keep well and safe.
victor

Anonymous said...

Glenn:
You've moved from tourist to rain maker. Congratulations.

Pamela McLean said...

Congratulations on getting this funding.

I have only just discovered your blog and am enjoying catching up on earlier entries too. Wonderful photos!

I don't know where the pink house is, but I recognise the "classroom" where you were leading the M and E group. I have taught there too.

I will be back at Fantsuam in September/October - and hope to meet you properly then.

Pamela McLean (Dadamac)

Megan said...

Congrats! That's great news.

Anonymous said...

i really apperciate your work so lovely'isaw your efforts am so delighted seeing how you have used your time,energy and resources to do this work,you are so great.

Anonymous said...

you have really done an herculean task dealing with the right of children in africa. i was fascinated seeing you take pictures of children ,moving from one places to the other.it was a job welldone

mercy said...

Hello Glenn,
You have some wonderful photos here. Infact, the bridge you have here in your photos looks so much like one i crossed yesterday on my way to Fadan Daji some kilometres away from Kagoro. FF's car which conveyed us could not cross over 'cause the bridge was shaky, rough and scary.we asked the community members what usually happens when someon is sick and need to be taken to the hospital or when a woman needs to put bed. they told us they do gather some strong men to carry such a person on thier shoulders to the hospital. this is to tell you that people out there are still suffering.

In your photos too,I saw the rough road you biked through. Of course, the one we passed through yesterday was worst than yours. Of course we went for HCT(HIV counseling and Testing). We had no option other than to continue with the journey.Bikes hardly pass through that road because of its roughness and each one that agrees to go charges two hundred and fifty naira per person which is danm too expensive and it is one hour thirty minutes from the bridge to the village.We came back to FF at 8.00pm very tired.

Lastly, I admired the dye pits and some of the finished dyed materials 'cause I am a lover of Arts. You've done a lot in Nigeria. Congratulstions.

Mercy Isaac,
(School Administrator/Conselor/Home Base care Facilitator/Dadamac learning group),
Fantsuam Foundation Kafancan,
Nigeria - West Africa.

Hezekiah Musa said...

Hi Glean,
This is magnificent. My name is Hezekiah. I recently joined the Dadamac Learning Group at Fantsuam Foundation and part of what I am learning is how to work with blogs. This was what linked me to this wonderful work you are engaged in.

The pictures are great. The stories are beuatiful. I am inspired. I will love to follow the lead. Kudos.
Hezekiah.

folabisunday said...

thanks for joinning FAAC in making the right of the nigerian child known to the government,parents,kings and community leaders and i think you must be commended for this. i was much more fascinated with the microfinance establish in collaboration with fantsuam that would go a long way to help the needy in our locality Glenn i will say well done to you

emmy said...

Genn,ur photos r intrestin,funny,educating,and it also shows how commited u r to ur tasks.keep the good work going.congrat!