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Communities trained on Child Protection and Safeguarding Desks

As an organisation that works with thousands of children and their families every year, So They Can actively upholds the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and adopts them into practice through a rights-based approach. Utilising the well-evidenced Child Rights Programming framework, developed by Save the Children, our approach encompasses:

  • taking direct action on child rights’ violations, and gaps in service provision;
  • strengthening the capacity of duty bearers to meet their obligations; and
  • strengthening the understanding and capacity of children, their carers and civil society to claim their rights, and hold others to account.

In Tanzania, So They Can’s work to establish Child Protection and Safeguarding Desks in 33 schools and 17 villages this year, achieves all three of these components.

Facilitating community commitment to child protection, in both theory and action, is fundamental to our work. Realising the Child Protection and Safeguarding Desks is an important legacy for So They Can. 

Cassandra Treadwell, CEO and Co-Founder, So They Can

The Desks ensure that students, and community members, are able to prevent and respond to practices and behaviours that are harmful to children through a confidential and accountable formal mechanism. Desk Members are elected, trained and put into teams that are made up of a diverse range of voices:

  • Primary School Desk: led by 16 students (6 boys: 6 girls), and overseen by 2 teachers (1 male: 1 female) and 1 parent
  • Secondary School Desk: led by 10 students (5 boys: 5 girls) and overseen by 2 teachers (1 male: 1 female) and 1 School Board member
  • Village Desk: 20 community members.

These desks will ensure that child protection and safeguarding measures are respected and implemented both in and outside of schools. Increasing and strengthening our Network of 112 Champions is a critical component of this.

Roselyne Mariki, Country Manager, Tanzania

The major undertaking of training stakeholders, to set up and operationalise the school-level Desks, was carried out by our Education Team in March in collaboration with the Babati District Social Welfare Officer, Ward Education Coordinators (WECs) and Champions. Awareness sessions were held with all students, students then elected their peers to represent them as Desk members, and teachers were selected for the Desk. 415 student Desk Members were trained by national government trainers and 33 new school-based Desks are now operating! Trained students have facilitated sessions in their schools to reach ​​a further 13,333 primary students and 4041 secondary students, which is expected to continue to increase.

The training sessions were facilitated by accredited national trainers, and participation and engagement in the sessions far exceeded expectations. A 1-day training for all primary and secondary Desk members reached 415 students, and a 3-day Training of the Trainers was held for all key stakeholders to allow for formation of village-level desks, and also for championing of child rights with 175 attendees, clearly showing the importance of child protection for everyone. The value of the sessions was acknowledged by all involved because they:

  • assembled a broad range of duty bearers for the first time, to address child protection jointly;
  • provided an open forum for meaningful participation and discussion on the issue between people from all levels of the community – students, parents, lawmakers, traditional and religious leaders all interacted;
  • provided understanding of the existing barriers to upholding child protection – poverty remains the key barrier and for desperate vulnerable families, settlement money from a perpetrator in the form of cash or livestock, has considerable value;
  • enabled clarification on the rights of a child in relation to existing laws;
  • enabled participants to publically share their own experiences and feel heard;
  • promoted the coordination of responses across actors;
  • resulted in action plans, with defined roles and responsibilities, for follow up.

It has been a positive start to the initiative, Early reports from the schools have shown that students have shared their newly acquired child rights knowledge with their peers; the facilitation of Happy and Sad boxes in schools for students to share feedback have been transferred from government Ward Education Officers to Desk members; community stakeholders have set up a Whatsapp group to actively share issues, successes, and school-based training photos; and some schools have also taken the initiative to create short messages about child rights and against child abuse.

Attendees of the stakeholder meeting included the Babati District Executive Director, the Manyara Regional Police Officer In Charge of Gender and Child Protection Desks; Babati District officials including the Police Officer In Charge of Gender and Child Protection Desks, Ward Councillors, Ward Leaders, Ward Police In Charge, traditional and religious leaders (both Muslims and Christians), student representatives, Champion Fathers and Mothers (29), Head teachers (33) and Desk Teachers (55). Media representatives (from local radio, tv and newspapers) covered the event.  


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