POSTED February 22, 2021
How we’re helping children lead positive change in Paraguay
Our Centre of Excellence is giving children a voice to get involved in accessing a meaningful education, free from violence
By Jorge Méndez Rheineck, country director, Paraguay
Children Believe has taken a big step. Creating Centres of Excellence in each of our program regions is making it possible for us to specialize in local issues holding children back from reaching their dreams.
To wit, the Paraguay program office is becoming a Centre of Excellence in protection against violence and child participation (or giving children the leadership skills and resources to speak up for their rights). We aim to ensure fear of violence isn’t a barrier to quality education and children feel safe and confident to share their opinion and meaningfully contribute to their learning.
As a tree requires deep and strong roots to grow tall and healthy, our Centre of Excellence is backed by the research and facts needed to make positive change. Certainly, four documented successes in this area have given us a strong foundation from which to grow.
Committed to change
Children Believe led a coalition of 25 non-governmental organizations that facilitated the signing of 20 commitments by Mario Abdo Benítez (above, middle), Paraguay’s President. Among the 20 commitments — written in favour of children with a system for monitoring compliance — are promises to improve access to quality education, protect kids from violence and promote child participation.
Many children were involved from the beginning. “In those years, I didn’t have much of an idea of what it was we were going to do … and now I realize all we have accomplished,” said Alcides, a young leader of the National Network of Children and Adolescents, a member of the coalition, speaking about the growth of his leadership skills in his hometown.
Setting up a country to lead change
Children Believe also grew its impact while working with UNICEF to advocate for, and support, Paraguay in becoming a Pathfinder Country. This status designated by The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children — a global entity formed by the United Nations to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goal to end violence against children (16.2) — was created to help specific countries lead change in this area.
Children Believe supported the Government of Paraguay to prepare, disseminate and implement the Pathfinder Country action plan. Later, the team also supported Paraguay’s Ministry of Children and Adolescents to obtain the funding and provide technical assistance, to adjust and redistribute the action plan.
Helping create national standards for success
Children Believe and its partners haven’t ended their work there. We’ve joined to develop a methodology and instrument to monitor and promote children’s rights in their communities.
We developed the “Child Rights Protection Traffic Light,” a system whereby responsible adults are alerted if there is an infringement on a child’s rights so a path to safety can be mapped out.
Putting change into practise
It’s perhaps most exciting that we’ve successfully trained young people to assess their rights, map the local system in charge of fulfilling them and advocate with authorities to close the gaps on rights not exercised. As an example, children from a community where we work convinced the mayor that regular local meetings with the existing commission protecting children’s rights was necessary. Now members of the community can make requests and share their opinions directly with the commission.
These experiences and achievements reaffirm our belief that deep and sustainable changes require persistence, strong alliances and close work with government and children.
Today Children Believe Paraguay has a solid foundation to build its Centre of Excellence status. We’re committed to making the most and the best for the children and families we serve, thanks to the generosity of donors.
ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):
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 12 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 more than 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.