Incorporating Children’s Voices through Locally Led Development

Children in Zambia marching behind a banner for World Environment DayChildren from the Care for Nature clubs join Care for Nature Zambia Executive Director Nsama Musonda Kearns at a march to commemorate World Environment Day on June 5, 2022. (Photo credit: Care for Nature Zambia)
Nsama Musonda Kearns

Nsama Musonda Kearns is the Executive Director of Care for Nature Zambia.

Disclaimer: This article was submitted to as a guest blog post. The views expressed by guest blog contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Agency for International Development or the United States Government.

When development actors sit at global and regional conferences to discuss the rights and welfare of children in Africa or other regions, do we see African children, especially those from rural areas, sitting at the table? The localization movement calls for a “participation revolution” of communities impacted by foreign assistance to be involved in decision-making —and this must include children. Realizing children’s rights and solving the many problems that they face requires them to be actively involved. To advance the “participation revolution” and locally-led development, Save the Children has strengthened its partnerships with rural-based organizations such as my organization, Care for Nature Zambia

The collaboration with Save the Children is one where they provide financial and technical support through training, organization assessment processes, and audits while Care for Nature does the project implementation and documentation through shared reports, publications, and documentaries.

Care for Nature Zambia Executive Director Nsama Musonda Kearns conducts a child-centered social accountability training for children at Chilila Primary School in Chief Chisunka's Chiefdom. (Photo credit: Care for Nature Zambia)

With Save the Children’s organizational capacity development support, Care for Nature staff uses new monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEAL) and finance tools and have improved our narrative reports. We also have undergone Save the Children's Organization Capacity Assessment (OCA). This process has helped us assess our strengths and weaknesses in governance, human resources, finance, monitoring and evaluation, and communication. 

Through the OCA process, we have been able to adequately plan for our organization’s capacity needs. In addition, the partnership with Save the Children has enabled us to undergo an external audit, a process for which many local organizations fail to meet partner requirements when applying for financial support. We have been able to access tools for use during training and get technical support in climate change, child rights programming, and child safeguarding, among others. 

Most importantly, we are elevating children’s voices better in our work. For example, we are working with children to produce documentaries that have been aired on radio and television. We are collaborating with children’s clubs to create new child-led initiatives and campaigns. To us, this is a clear indicator of the value of localization and how much change can be achieved when local organizations take the lead.

Care for Nature Zambia is working with Save the Children on the Children’s Agency Project, which is aimed at enhancing the capacity of children in Zambia to participate in climate campaigns and document learning and impact. This project, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), is aligned with the Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 12, which focuses on children’s right to be heard and to express opinions on issues that affect them. 

Additionally, we have become technical advisors for other local partners working with Save the Children on this project, providing capacity assistance on children’s rights and climate change. During the project cycle, Save the Children identifies partner strengths among areas such as climate change and environment, gender equality, disability, conflict resolution, and children most impacted by inequality and discrimination. We encourage the partners to coach others and monitor how they use the knowledge gained within their project. 

Last November, Care for Nature Zambia introduced “Climate Change in Child Rights” programming to Save the Children’s partners under the SIDA program. This year, we will conduct monitoring to see how the knowledge gained during the training is being applied. This exercise of knowledge exchange helps partners to mainstream approaches and strengthen partner implementation across different geographical regions. These partnerships have helped to improve the capacity of Care for Nature Zambia while increasing the ecosystem and solidarity across other local actors.

International organizations have the finance, technical expertise, and capacity to influence change globally. As local organizations, we have direct contact with the children and communities most impacted by the problems that international organizations seek to address. Such partnerships help to increase the number of people who can influence change and also cut down on the cost of organizations traveling from far away to implement activities in areas where local organizations are based.

We at Care for Nature Zambia partner with international organizations such as Save the Children to promote children’s rights. This “participation revolution” will help to reduce inequalities and empower children to lead the way toward a safe, healthy, and happy future. By working together, national and international organizations complement each other's efforts. 

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