Strengthening Participation of Children in Peace Building in Small Island Nations with High Prevalence of Violence, Ethnic Discrimination and Tribal Conflict
In Western Pacific societies, discrimination against children restricts their opportunity to meaningfully engage and participate in their community and in decisions concerning their own lives and future. Cultural stigma concerning the role of children has increased their marginalisation and the incidence of violence. The overall objective of this project was to strengthen the participation of children in development and particularly in the building of peaceful and inclusive societies.
Conducted in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, the project engaged 1800 schools and 2000 teachers. Children were involved in training with journalists and learned media skills and advocacy approaches. National children’s forums gave children the opportunity and space to present their issues to leaders and policy makers. Project activities focused primarily on enhancing the profile of children in the pursuit of peace through facilitating links and networks between children at the local, national and regional level. A peace network was also established in the formal education system. Activities empowered children to become engaged, active and responsive citizens and to exercise their rights and strengthen their ability to hold duty-bearers accountable against these rights.
Raising awareness on child rights was a focal point, with the UNCRC disseminated to parents, teachers, media outlets, local leaders and children. Throughout the project, children’s networks were set up to encourage peer education amongst children and to enable them to advocate and express their ideas.
Various public media bodies, including newspapers and television stations, were also included in these networks as a valuable platform for advocacy and publicity of the project. Results have shown that through these activities children in target communities now have a greater understanding of what peace means. They also now have the confidence to participate in discussions and decision-making processes with adults in their community about their own human rights.
The project published the "Be the Future" toolkit – which includes the following resources:
- Building Peace: An Educator’s Guide for the Pacific (teacher’s guide)
- Building Peace: Child's rights cards
- Rights of the child poster
- The song of freedom (children’s storybook)
- Your Guide to Create Change (peer educator’s guide)
- A Child Rights in the Pacific, Media Guide
In Fiji these educational materials have been incorporated into the national curriculum for upper-primary Social Science subjects. After successfully presenting the project in a Media Professionals Conference, Live & Learn won the UNESCO/DWU Media Freedom Day Award for giving space or voice to children.
The project enhanced children’s advocacy skills and development of practical ways to assert their basic rights through a process of analysis, critical thinking, investigation and debating. The actions extend to the greater community and give children an opportunity to demonstrate new knowledge and understanding through application and action. Through peer education, children will strengthen their capacity to lead innovative approaches to advocacy. Live & Learn has since furthered this work through the publication of the Arts for Advocacy student and teacher guides, specifically focused on creative advocacy approaches for sustainable development goal 6 concerning water and sanitation.