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In simple terms, a humanitarian is a person who works for the welfare and development of others. Doing good is widely perceived as an act of charity; the concept of giving to a greater cause. However, is it always effective?
Very often the act of giving is seen as an end to the process of goodwill. What most people miss is that humanitarian work is a two way street. While designing programmes, laws, and policies, there are too many closed door discussions, and therefore opinions and ideas don’t always strike a chord with the people they are meant for. There is a gap between what is designed and what is really needed.
How do we address this gap? Listen to people; their opinions, voices, dreams, and vision. By keeping people at the centre of everything, We are building a trusted relationship with them, and listening is one of the best ways to show that you care.
At Terre des Hommes Netherlands in Asia, we work towards this very ethos in all our efforts to address child exploitation. We have learnt that placing children at the centre of our efforts, and giving them a platform to speak up proves to be extremely effective. We recommend designing programmes in consultation with children and communities. There is a need to co-create solutions with those concerned. This brings about child and community-led efforts where people take ownership of their own development.
We work by celebrating children and their voices. During the humanitarian month of August, we organised art events for our children across some of our countries of operation in the Asia region – The Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal and India. Across the four countries, more than 60 children gathered and painted their vision of ‘freedom from exploitation’ using our new brand colour palette which reflects inclusion and freedom of choices.
For instance, Sara* from the Philippines sees freedom from exploitation as a child on the upper end of a see-saw holding a balloon with her parents working hard at the bottom to keep her on top. Malini* from India views her freedom as three girls flying a kite on a beautiful starry night. Cambodia’s Chea* drew himself a house and a car which drove into the sunset, and Salim* from Bangladesh drew a parallel between a sad child working and a happy child in school on either side of the canvas. All the children who participated are vulnerable to exploitation and their creative expression gives us an insight into their thinking, and their notion of a protected and happy life.
We plan to further showcase these works of art to government authorities to ensure that they align with children’s ideologies. We will also incorporate these drawings into our programmatic decisions. As humanitarians, we reaffirm our resolve to ensure that all children irrespective of geography, ideology, gender, ethnicity, and economic status are protected from exploitation and grow up in safe environments.
*Names changed to protect identity