In the countries where we work, there are numerous threats to a child’s healthy development. Lack of access to education, child trafficking, child labor, child/forced marriage, and female genital cutting (FGC) pose the most dangerous risks. When children’s human rights are not respected they are unable to develop into healthy, contributing adults in their community.
Child/forced marriage, specifically, jeopardizes girls’ healthy development. When girls are married at a young age, they are at greater risk to drop out of school early, become susceptible to domestic violence, and experience health complications during child birth.
Through our Community Empowerment Program (CEP) module on child protection, Community Management Committees (CMCs) are trained to address the deep social norms and practices that negatively affect children. They raise awareness about respecting children’s rights and create sustainable solutions that meet the needs of at risk children.
The CMCs establish Commissions for Child Protection (CCPs), which lead the community in advocating for children’s rights and transforming existing social norms that sustain harmful practices. In addition to leading these community-wide projects, they also intervene directly in cases of child abuse.
Participation in the CEP builds consensus on the importance of respecting the human rights of all people—women, men, and children. The collective public abandonment of FGC and child/forced marriage by over 7,200 communities across Africa is an example of the successful child protection efforts of communities.
Other achievements made by Tostan partner communities in children's rights include: securing safer, cleaner, and healthier living conditions for talibé children; increasing the number of girls enrolled in primary schools; improving infant and child nutrition; increasing the number of birth registrations; creating opportunities for teenagers to act as leaders in the community; and significantly improving the educational experience for children attending Koranic schools.