Communication with communities: empowering children as peacebuilders
Submitted by: Maya Assaf-Horstmeier, Associate Director for Conflict Sensitivity, World Vision International.
Email: [email protected]
Introduction to the project
Central African Republic (CAR)
This project enhanced the self-reliance of the displaced community in a camp in Yaklore, CAR, for Internally Displaced People (IDP), by improving cohesion with the host community and providing IDPs with access to local services, consequently reducing pressure on the host community to provide for those in need. Working with local faith actors from the Islamic and Christian traditions World Vision saw long-term sustainable community change and improved social cohesio÷n between groups living in conflict in CAR.
Promoting faith literacy among religious leaders of Christian and Muslim backgrounds in an IDP camp in Yaklore, CAR. Faith leaders contributed to the development of Child Friendly Spaces for Christian and Muslim children in an effort to build social cohesion and provide psychosocial support services and community healing to children living in the camp and recovering from conflict.
Financial resources were used to write the case study. For the project itself, financial, technical and human resources were used.
Case study, Reducing children’s vulnerability to violence: A case study from the Central African Republic, available here.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The project responded to the needs of refugee children and developed approaches that will allow its replication at a bigger scale in the rest of the country and potentially in other contexts. It was developed in close partnership with displaced people and host community members, paying specific attention to the crucial role that young people and women can play in grassroots peacebuilding efforts. It brought in members of the local faith communities who had not previously been engaged by international specialists in protection and conflict resolution.
Challenges and how they were overcome
The biggest challenge was the difficulty of sustaining an open dialogue between the Christian and Muslim community. To address this, children were empowered as peacebuilders to build social cohesion with their Muslim and Christian neighbours.
Results of the Good Practice
- Increased social cohesion between Muslims and Christians in the Yaklore IDP camp.
- Within a month this collaboration resulted in IDPs (who were previously confined to the camp) being granted access to local markets and public service centres.
- The goodwill fostered through this inclusive, interfaith dialogue has carried over in all World Vision projects and all its project locations in the country.
- A testimony from one of the community members involved is hugely illustrative :
“My name is Mady, I’m a widow, I am from the Muslim community and I live in Trangue.
When this project arrived in out village, I was not there because I spent months in the bush. I didn’t want to risk my life even though I’m old. Some women in the village met me on my farm and they gave me news of the village. They said that a new project is coming, targeting our children. I told them that I’m old and I don’t have children anymore; they all are dead, so this project is not relevant for me. They answered that the project needs women coming from different religions in order to prove to men that women are promoters of social cohesion and that we don’t want our children to make the same mistake as their older brothers. I took two weeks to think about it alone in my farm, and I realised that I have to shut down the anger I have in my heart and go back to in my community to participate as a woman.
I’m back in my village, and I realise that I don’t have to be scared anymore. People welcomed me and I asked to reintegrate into the association of widowed women of the village. They talked to me about the good things coming thanks to the project, and it is motivating me to be more involved in my community.
Most of the Muslim families left the village during the conflict. I meet some of them from time to time, so I try to sensitise them to the project as a way to reintegrate the community. I think the project just opened a door in which Muslims and Christians living in the same community have to seize the chance to keep it open for a better future.”
The good practices underlined in this study are currently being translated into elements that can be integrated into other peacebuilding projects with a faith component.