Friday, 16 September 2016

AFRICA DIRECTIONS AND PLAN INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS IN CHILD AND YOUTH FRIENDLY CITIES PROJECT

By MacPherson Mukuka in Lusaka



Africa Directions and Plan International have entered into a three year partnership to run a project called Child and Youth Friendly Cities in advancing children and young people’s rights to the city.

The project will contribute towards achieving one of AD’s strategic direction and directly contribute to realising the 2030 Sustainable development goal number 11: Making cities and human settlement inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The project is focusing on five cities in Sub Saharan Africa Dakar, Freetown, Harare, Monrovia and Lusaka in order to foster peer exchange among the five African Cities and provide an opportunity for sharing lessons during the period of the project. Africa Directions selected three slums in Lusaka namely Mtendere, Kalikiliki and Chibolya as its target communities for this project.

AD Executive Director Mark Chilongu says his organisation is being a bit ambitious to try and target one of the most dangerous compounds in Lusaka.

He says the organisation wants to try and see how it can contribute to changing lives of most children and young people growing up in an environment like Chibolya as well as advocate for child and youth friendly spaces in the selected compounds.

Mr. Chilongu added that the project is more of an advocacy and not necessarily a humanitarian project.

He said urban youth governance project is going to fight urban child poverty and exclusion by contributing to the development of child and youth friendly cities, where children and young people enjoy their rights and actively shape the urban environment.

He further said that in each of the three compounds in Lusaka, Africa Directions is looking at: Strengthening young people’s participation and influence decision making (Urban Governance) affecting their urban environments, Strengthen urban grassroots youth civil society.

He said the organisation is focusing on three areas because it believes that strong grassroots civil society organisation are essential in taking citizens interests forward with the authorities, private sector stakeholders and other powerholders adding that a united and well-organised civil society can hold the relevant authorities accountable.

Mr. Chilongu has indicated that that project is important because as youth organisation, AD believes that Children and young people have a right to participating in decisions that affect them including decision about how their communities and their development change.

He said young people have strong and creative ideas about how to make their communities better and can be major asset for their own communities and the city as whole.

He added that very often, young people are finding it extremely difficult to participate and be heard in decision making processes.

Mr. Chilongu has however cited bureaucracy as a major hindrance to progress adding that levels of authority and opportunities for participation are unclear, and local authorities and other duty bearers are not always inviting or receptive of young people’s views (Especially girls) due to negative cultural norms.

He said investing in young people and supporting their claim and participation can bring about long lasting and locally relevant improvements–for the sake of the entire community.

He said, with little support, young people can accomplish anything they put their minds to, from community action to improving the physical urban environment, create public spaces, improve garbage collection or child-protection.

The AD Executive Director further stated that there is need to catch them young if meaningful contribution can be attained from the young people.

Mr. Chilongu also expressed his organisation's delight for the partnership with Plan International on the project.
He has also indicated that AD remains grateful to Government's support through the Ministry of Local Government and Housing and the Lusaka City Council who participated during its first stakeholder meeting of the project.

Mr. Chilongu has since pledged AD's continued strategic engagement with Government Ministries during the entire project cycle.

He said AD believes that such grassroots level initiatives should be harnessed more to engage with communities so that every child’s rights are respected.

Source: Mark Chilongu

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