“Child protection is a leadership function summarised by three words: Support, Equip and Coordinate. Creating safer spaces where children can thrive should be the heartbeat of every community empowerment strategy,” says the MD of Ezrah Community Training and Development NPC, Mariëtte Jacobs.
As National Child Protection Month has just been celebrated, we became keenly aware again of the complexity of child protection challenges. However, it is clear that meaningful collaboration and integrated resilience-focused responses truly can make a difference. At Ezrah, we value social impact. Therefore it was important for us to establish a lasting child protection culture within our community.
Reflecting back on our own child protection journey, we want to celebrate our joint progress with our valued collaborators. In learning new trauma-informed language, developing courage to persevere and by implementing resilience-based practices, we celebrate every small step of progress.
Here is a short summary of the 5 key elements that are helping us to co-write stories of change:
1. Clear strategic direction
As the Drakenstein Child Protection Programme is a long-term programme, our activities are guided by a well-drafted Theory of Change to keep us on track. Through regular feedback from our beneficiaries and stakeholders and in line with new research recommendations, we are able to adapt our Theory of Change by adding new projects as the need arise. This ensures that our different child protection platforms – steering group, working groups, think tanks, case management forum as well as collaborative projects remain relevant to context
2. Meaningful collaboration
As each organisation holds an unique puzzle piece to child protection, collaboration is key to ensure an integrated approach. However, collaboration should be built on a shared vision and work ethos, trusting relationships, safe support networks as well as clear mandates, roles and responsibilities. Rules of engagement, service level agreements and actionable meeting summaries all play a role to ensure intentional, well planned coordinated projects
3. An inclusive approach
Connection and positive engagement between different child protection stakeholders can create empathy and compassion for each other’s difficulties. It also brings insight into the different work environments as well as processes and procedures that all stakeholders need to implement. Getting stakeholders together to connect over a cup of coffee may go a long way in opening the way for an inclusive approach to collaboration.
4. Innovation and ethical thinking
As new child protection challenges emerge, innovation is needed to respond effectively. Creative best practice models on a variety of platforms can reach much further. We therefore aim to share child protection and ethics resources in-person and online and are in the process to develop child protection E-learning courses. We also implement collaborative projects with other like-minded role-players with the hope that more community members will take up the baton for child protection. This will enable us to empower child-focused organisations, ECDs and churches to implement child protection measures within their own context across South Africa and beyond.
5. Solution-focused communication
Communication should always be supportive and give participants the courage to continue in the face of overwhelming child protection needs and challenges. Each stakeholder engagement should be followed up with clear links to resources and the next action points to map the way forward. Strengths-based, resilience-focused, collaborative language is part of creating a new way of thinking to address systemic challenges collectively.
Anita du Plessis from the Freedom Ports Alliance (FPA) perhaps summarised the potential of this type of collaboration the best. Here is what she wrote after attending a counter trafficking Think Tank, facilitated by Ezrah in May:
“The passionate discussions led to the conclusion that there are more ways in which we can expand the support we provide to the relevant government departments. While decision-makers are often unaware of the niche expertise available to them, attendees agreed to go the extra mile towards getting department buy-in and encourage agencies to collaborate. The growing collaboration is conducive to the implementation of approaches that bridge gaps. As each of us change the ways in which we approach tasks, the promise of a domino effect can become the new reality.”
We salute every collaborator, network, partner, donor and participant who share the dream of ethical service delivery and quality education where children really matter. Together we can empower the next generation as leaders of change.
Read more about our collaborative child protection projects here: