I recently attended a meeting at Columbia University hosted by the Oak Foundation and Plan International USA, to explore the use and impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on children on the move. Conversations, presentations and reflections have left me thinking more strategically about how CCR uses technology in our efforts to create a critical mass of Tanzanians who demand an investment in protecting children.
Millions of children and young people across the world leave their habitual place of residence and are on the move. They may be migrants, asylum seekers or expatriates, but the labels are rarely useful. People retain their inherent essence and uniqueness even though they may move in and out of categories as their journeys and lives unfold.
This meeting was to deepen exploration for a study that seeks to find out:
- How can ICTs help address the needs of children on the move?
- Who is already using ICT’s in their programming for children on the move and to what effect?
- What questions are arising from the use of ICT’s in terms or risk, ethics, effectiveness and
- How could ICT’s be better deployed?
A review of the literature reveals that currently children on the move use ICT’s as a way of exchanging assets. They do this when they are communicating and connecting and thus exchanging emotional support, when they access information and gain the asset of knowledge, when they are accessing services and finally when they are self-organising and leveraging the assets within their networks.
Typically child protection agencies have seen the use of ICT’s as a risk that they need to protect children from, but the reality is that ICTs are child neutral. They can be used positively or negatively and CCR tries to embrace the opportunities that ICT’s offer. The risk may be that CCR needs to better consider the ethical implications and possible dangers that arise from using ICT’s in the largely unregulated context of Tanzania.
CCR argues that the limited formal child protection services, extremely high rates of violence against children and demographics where 50% of Tanzanians are children mean that the Tanzanian Government may face a legitimacy crisis if they fail to invest in services that advance the rights and wellbeing of young people.
CCR uses ICT’s as part of its programming to prevent violence towards children. Its trans-media campaign 50% has created the Tuko Tayari radio and television show, which calls upon Tanzanian adults to take micro-actions to protect children and to send SMSs to CCR reporting the actions that they have taken. These individuals are mapped on a geo-map, thus enabling CCR to build a picture of the emerging child protection constituency. We then celebrate these individuals by profiling them on audio visual ‘moving posters’ as examples of citizen action. Additionally, CCR is conducting a social network analysis looking at how child protection champions leverage their informal relationships to protect children. By celebrating strengths and building on positive emotions CCR’s campaign aims to create a tipping point, with the goal that within 10 years 50% of the adult population take actions to protect children.
CCR has found that contrary to expectations people are keen to talk about child abuse, and that many are taking actions to protect children. In 2012 almost 18,000 people sent SMSs to CCR reporting actions. A recent evaluation of our invisible theatre initiative revealed that 79% reported having taken an action to protect a child following the Invisible Theatre performance. 87% reported having engaged more broadly with society on issues of children’s rights and 70% reported engagement with local leaders regarding children’s rights.
The following insights are emerging from CCR’s work:
- Tanzanians are increasingly open to talking about the situation of violence against children,
- Many are spurred into action with the catalyst of media that makes them think about the issue and define their values and
- There is increasing comfort with and access to technologies that enable agencies such as CCR to mobilise people on a large-scale.
Given that CCR’s primary concern is to shift the discourse and the practice of adult Tanzanians towards protecting children what questions and insights emerged for me from the discussions about ICT in relation to children on the move?
My greatest take-away was about the centrality and power of narrative, local voice and technology in the service of human rights and social justice. A presentation by Lina Srivastava on trans-media was incredible powerful, as she reminded us that “by collectivizing ownership of narrative, trans-media breaks down the ‘us’ and ‘them’.” Story, collaboration, action, voice and leadership are all essential elements for sustaining communities and whilst CCR’s participatory action research lives these values we have not been so intentional about expressing them as central to our multi-media work.
A trans-media activism project has 1/ Community centred participation, 2/ Moves beyond awareness and 3/ Uses platforms that are culturally appropriate. Every distribution channel needs to add value and does so through a trans-media platform. In CCR’s case this involves creating open source media content, building a space for collaborative story-telling that breaks down silos, challenges labels and includes the narratives of active citizens, victims, survivors and agitators.
The key is establishing a process for multiple diverse perspectives to inform the co-creation and co-production of media that raises awareness, engages audiences to take action and ultimately creates change. Central to media is its role as a catalyst in creating action.
Allied to Lina’s insights about trans-media is the opportunity to use ICT’s to create spaces for typically marginalised people to participate in initiatives that both fulfil their innate potential for self-actualisation and that create opportunities for social change. Currently, CCR largely uses ICT for an adult audience who use the media and SMSs to report actions that they are taking to protect children. But this could be expanded to include ways to inform children and receive reports about how they keep themselves safe.
Finally, Kate Barker from the Population Council emphasised the importance of social networks as sources of protection for migrant children and their absence as a source of risk. She recommended that reestablishing social networks and thus social capital needs to be a priority in programming for girl migrants. CCR’s social network analysis of the informal and formal relational networks that are used by people who protect children may shed some interesting insights into the structure of social networks of those people who are taking altruistic social actions and how they utilise those networks in seeking to protect children.
A number of ‘practice questions’ emerged for me as a result of the discussions.
- The data that we collect from the SMS’s track how people engage in social action, but does the data per se empower them and if so how?
- In the 50% campaign how does CCR get people to interact with us and to what end?
- Telecoms talk of potential of broadband, but the reality is that global broadband coverage is very limited so how does CCR design for what’s coming in the future but also for what’s possible now?
- What are the key ethical questions and risks that arise from CCR’s use of media, SMSs and mapping and how are we mitigating them?
Answering the above questions would support CCR to better integrate ICTs into our work. But in addition to that we could better involve young people in the co-creation and popularisation of our campaign, by using them and the mobile phones in their hands to ask them to film moving posters. We could also better integrate the power of narrative into our monitoring work by including the Most Significant Change approach where individuals share their personal accounts of change and decide which of these accounts is the most significant.