POSTED October 18, 2021
3 reasons working with local partners in countries we serve is essential
This month, as I reflected on Canada’s inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, it reaffirmed a collective commitment for me that “every child matters.” I was reminded how important that thought is to Children Believe’s work every day and why our local partners are essential to ensuring the communities we work with are driving positive change with us, not by us.
Having worked in Toronto’s low-income, culturally diverse Jane and Finch neighbourhood for many years as well as in countries such as Kenya, Pakistan and Bangladesh, I’ve seen the critical role faith leaders, community leaders and grassroots partners can play. Never has their essential role in facilitating the breaking down of barriers children face in living out their dreams been more apparent.
Challenges are everywhere. Consider what’s happened this year in our programs and around the world, from ongoing unrest and displacement in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso where we work to life-changing natural disasters, political unrest with far-reaching effects and the COVID-19 pandemic, of course.
If we truly believe every child matters, this is the time to reflect and think about how we can deepen our collaboration with local partners around the world even further.
There are three ways we create positive change in our programs every day.
1) Local partners connect with local culture and societies
Ghana is a great example of how local partners connect with traditional leaders to make positive change happen.
Thanks to our implementing partners’ relationship with local tribal chiefs, we secured community support to send girls to school in an area where girls don’t traditionally get access to school. And, the chiefs have since given our partners permission and land to build schools and health clinics, further developing their community.
Thanks to our implementing partners Participatory Action for Rural Development Alternatives and Markaz Al Bishara for making this progress possible.
I’m also thankful to ONG Crecer in Paraguay. This partner speaks Guaraní, the country’s native indigenous language. This knowledge helps them assess needs and provide support where and how it’s needed most, while connecting with local culture and people.
2) Local partners offer lasting solutions to initiatives sparked by international aid
This was exciting to see during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when community leaders stepped up in India to help their struggling neighbours.
“Moved by an 11-year-old crying out in hunger in the streets of a tribal habitation, community leaders leveraged their resources to set up a feeding program,” wrote Nancy, Children Believe India country director, during one of the pandemic peaks.
Community members put leadership skills they learned in our programs to good use and reached out to our partner Integrated Rural Community Development Society (IRCDS) for help launching a community kitchen to feed the most vulnerable.
IRCDS and Children Believe helped transport resources the concerned citizens secured, to their local kitchen. Sixteen landowners, philanthropists and village leaders supplied enough food to safely serve 300 children, new mothers, seniors and families from tribal villages for 45 days on a rotating schedule (pictured above).
3) Local, grassroots partners give us greater reach and capacity to influence
In February, we partnered with South Africa’s Graça Machel Trust to co-host a panel discussion about how we can empower girls post-pandemic to access education. It brought together leaders from government, United Nations Women and girls from Africa to discuss how best to advocate for greater change. Watch it here.
And, last week we co-hosted an event in our Burkina Faso office with Ethiopia’s African Child Policy Forum. It united local government, civil-society leaders, UN agencies, researchers and media to reflect on the reality of girls’ lives in Burkina, identifying areas for action in addressing issues such as malnourishment, child labour, child marriage and access to education. This discussion was informed by consultation with local girls to get a firm understanding of their needs.
Children Believe has a long history of collaborating with local leaders for good reason. Today, we work daily with nearly 30 implementing partners in six countries where we have sponsorship communities in Africa, Asia and The Americas.
Our job is to listen to these knowledgeable, extremely passionate leaders so we can recognize local challenges (and successes) and rally support where it’s needed most. This means having conversations and virtual meetings to hear about the challenges and opportunities they see.
And, I want to challenge the discussion in those meetings further. I really want to hear how our partners think we can work together even better at breaking the seemingly overwhelming barriers facing children right now, especially girls, whose families have been so set back by the global pandemic. I look forward to sharing those results with you in a future blog.