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Celebrating lasting change as communities in India graduate from support

POSTED October 18, 2022

Celebrating lasting change as communities in India graduate from support

Find out why we started working in the region and the meaningful change made

By Siju Mathew, monitoring, evaluation, learning and knowledge sharing officer, India

Girl holds vegetable in garden

The proverb says “All is well that ends well,” and that is the case in 53 communities in Thoothukudi and Ramanathapuram, India where Children Believe gave support through our local partner People’s Action for Development (PAD) for 16 years. Today, we celebrate the graduation of these communities from our support.

How do we know communities are ready to graduate?

Program graduation is always our goal. It’s celebrated when community members have the knowledge and skills to plan and implement successful initiatives to meet basic needs. And, although there may still be challenges to overcome, community leaders know how to find sustainable and appropriate solutions.

How do we get to this point? We provide programmatic, technical and financial support to our local partners, like PAD, to lead initiatives that promote the holistic development of children and sustainable livelihood opportunities for low-income, vulnerable and marginalized families.

We do this by following our four pathways to change

  • we support thriving communities
  • we advance child rights and protection
  • we promote equality for girls
  • we partner with children for change

What needs did PAD support when they started working in these communities?

 When we began our journey with PAD in 2006, there were several warning signs in the communities where they worked that made it clear they needed support to create lasting change.

Gender-based violence, violence against children and caste-based (or class-based) discrimination was at a peak. The infant mortality rate was extremely high at 126 per 1000 live births, the school dropout rate was 7.3 percent among children between the ages of six and 11 and 22.3 percent of marriages where child marriages.

What’s more, community members didn’t know about or have access to government policies and programs to help them learn, grow and develop. And, it was difficult to access official child-protection systems without an understanding of child rights and how the community should safeguard children from all forms of violence.

The road PAD and Children Believe took to spark lasting change in 53 communities

PAD’s partnership with government and local communities made it possible for Children Believe to strengthen child-protection systems, promote quality education, increase access to higher education as well as promote gender equality, youth leadership and sustainable livelihoods. To do this, PAD focused on five areas:

  • early childhood care and development
  • education
  • child rights and protection
  • youth leadership
  • gender and social inclusion

Child-friendly accountability meeting in India

What are the signs of lasting change in the communities PAD helped?

  • Students are completing higher education with support from a savings-matching program;
  • Child-friendly accountability groups (above) are now safe spaces for children and youth to learn their rights, understand formal and informal child-protection measures at local, state and national levels and meet people responsible for keeping them safe;
  • Youth are developing leadership skills through encouragement and training programs;
  • Disaster-risk management and emergency preparedness training is improving resilience;
  • Community members’ bio-intensive gardens are blooming thanks to training and the distribution of seeds and vegetable plants;
  • Select community members are continually training as “barefoot vets” to provide basic cattle care, following concerns farmers could not get timely medical support;
  • FISHERR, a formally registered community self-help group, is helping families trapped in unfair loans from informal moneylenders by working with national banks.

The changes are evident. In a recent review of the program area, we witnessed parents and community members understanding and respecting children’s rights, greater involvement in extracurricular activities that teach kids valuable life skills, better immunization coverage and health awareness, higher school enrolment and grade-level reading. Most importantly, the children display more confidence.

There’s a growing connection between local community-based organizations (CBO) and governmental institutions. Most recently, leaders of CBOs campaigned for government support, secured funding and led projects to address community needs. The following are a few more examples of their progress.

  • Eleven renovated schools gave nearly 7,000 students and teachers access to learn;
  • More than 450 kids won education grants from PAD and their community;
  • Gardens and health programs contributed to the health and nutrition of nearly 12,400 children and community members;
  • The team rescued 151 female children from child marriage and 253 children (94 males and 159 female) from child labour;
  • Nearly 1,750 children joined Child-Friendly Accountability Mechanism (CFAM) Clubs where they learned about their rights and protection as well as legal and policy provisions;
  • Early childhood care and development programs supported 14,000+ children (under five) as well as lactating and pregnant women;
  • Emergency response actions, such as providing food rations and hygiene materials, supported 2,500+ families;
  • Six bodies of water were cleaned, benefiting 14,800 people in 13 communities.

Gathering with program members past and present to celebrate success

Children, community members, government representatives, the PAD team, other partner representatives and the Children Believe team gathered to celebrate the graduation.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad, founder of PAD, recalled how PAD started operating and policy reforms realized through the partnership with Children Believe.

A Grade 11 student who is now the treasurer of the state child-protection group shared how programs changed her life. “I learned about child rights and protection, and I know exactly who to approach if there are violations of child rights,” said Muhila, who credited PAD for her leadership role.

Muhila is not alone. We were filled with joy that several of the current and former sponsored and non-sponsored children broke through barriers and persevered to become engineers, nurses, social workers and attorneys.

Sponsor a child in India today.

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Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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