Shifting the Power: Locally-led solutions are better for children
By the start of 2002, the conflict in Ituri Province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo had led to tens of thousands of deaths. Youth were regularly manipulated to participate in dangerous military movements, and aside from religious activity and essential goods, almost all socioeconomic activity had come to a halt.
Mr. Aimé Birido Tsatsi, 23 years old at the time, had had enough. He called his friends Guillaume Angaika Ndodhu and Adolfe Adido Abizo to pose a question:
“When will we be able to end our region's horrible situation?”
Their solution: a call to the province’s youth to discuss the consequences of the war on their generation.
Once the three friends received the encouragement of other young people and the support of the traditional Chief and the heads of the local churches, Mr. Tsatsi and his compatriots began organizing youth workshops in three convening cities: Gety, Chyekele and Aveba. The first workshop drew a crowd of over 300 youth participants, with each subsequent workshop drawing more participants than the last.
“That’s how, little by little, in the community, leaders arose who pushed action,” recalls Mr. Tsatsi.
More and more, the youth mobilized, and the local authorities became interested in the work. Given the number of youth participating, the co-founders decided to give their initiative a name: the Association des Jeunes pour le Développement Communautaire, or “Youth Association for Community Development” (AJEDEC).
This is how AJEDEC was founded.
Partnering for children affected by war
AJEDEC and Save the Children signed their first partnership agreement in 2004. Over the following year, Save the Children supported AJEDEC to strengthen the local organization’s work in child protection that included reuniting families, finding better ways to identify children in armed groups and teaching the community ways to prevent child recruitment. Within a year, AJEDEC successfully separated more than 950 children from armed groups and reunited them with their respective families.
Save the Children and AJEDEC have continued to work on multiple projects since then, including an education programme which enrolled more than 6,000 girls and boys in courses and child protection programmes that seek to ease suffering and improve the lives of children and their families affected by conflicts in their community.
Mr. Tsatsi confirms that there are many success stories to document involving children reunited with their families after being separated from armed groups. These children are now role models within their communities and some have even been hired as employees of AJEDEC.
Looking at its development, AJEDEC is currently co-leading the child protection working group throughout the province of Ituri. It has just benefited from SCI funds to ensure their valuable work can continue to help children affected by war.
Locally-led solutions are better for children
Our world faces many development and humanitarian challenges like the conflict in DRC that have forced Save the Children to think and work differently about how we address threats to children.
Through localisation, Save the Children has been able to better respond to these dynamic challenges by shifting more influence, resources, and decision-making power to actors and communities – including children – closest to development and humanitarian challenges.
Community members who experience first-hand the problem know best what will work for them, and solutions will be accepted, owned and longer-lasting if they are locally-led.
Save the Children aims to act as an ally to local communities and actors, by elevating their voice and leadership in development and humanitarian assistance. In particular, we believe that children and youth should be seen as agents of change, partners, and experts – not just as recipients of development or humanitarian services.
To do this, we strive to include local community members, youth, and children in our programmes to identify the problems impacting their communities and take into account their backgrounds, experiences, and priorities while finding solutions together.
In the case of AJEDEC, it is inspiring to witness how the concerns of several young people have transformed into an organisation that is now a recognised leader in child protection and respected by a wide range of partners, participants and allies across their community and province.
Many thanks to Aimé Birido Tsatsi for his time, his willingness to share AJEDEC’s history and his thoughts on partnership with Save the Children, and his contributions to this blog. For more information, about Save the Children’s localization work, please contact our Localization Team at email@example.com.