Every year we are fortunate to have the opportunity to come together as a global team, with staff from all five countries, plus the regional program and Canada, to share program successes and challenges and learn from one another. This year the third annual conference was held in Nicaragua with a focus on Transition to Dignified Work, and a gender transformative approach.
The highlight of the conference, as unanimously agreed, was the visit to the project sites and interaction with girls, boys, their parents, communities and our local partners. The following is a description of the visit:
Day Three & Four: Visit to La Dalia
Hacienda La Florida, La Dalia – Fair with partners (SILAIS, MITRAB, CESESMA, MINED).
Hacienda La Florida is one of the large coffee plantations which host a library and resource centre of children, as well as many of the CLW project activities. An elaborate fair was held in which each partner had a table to share their work and materials with the participants.
- The farm administrator gave words of welcome and general information on working girls and boys on the farm and means of employment protection. It was evident this administrator provides great support for the project and that his collaboration and buy-in is a key element to its success. When later asked what his motivations for supporting it are, he described it as in his favor to support the well-being and good treatment of his employees and their families.
- Unfortunately due to the rain we were not able to get a tour of the farm.
- The Mayor of La Dalia was also present to welcome the Save the Children guests and to speak about how the municipality is involved in the project.
- Each partner presented their principal actions that they develop jointly around the project especially for the Harvest Plan, which is jointly rolled out to ensure school permanence, promotion and protection of children involved in the coffee harvest:
- SILAIS – Ministry of Health: promote safe and healthy environments, prevention of labor risks and intoxication in communities, plantations and farms. Information on sexual health and prevention of pregnancy and STIs are also provided to adolescents;
- MITRAB – Ministry of Labour: sensitizes parents, producers, coffee farm administrators and civil society so they take ownership of the need to prevent economic exploitation and ensure dignified work conditions;
- CESESMA: promotes the organization and participation of children and adolescents workers, developing their capacities to associate and advocate for their rights;
- MINED – Ministry of Education: implements a school reinforcement plan to ensure continuity to primary school for children.
Casa Blanca, partner CESESMA
Partner CESESMA, collaborators and children and youth received us on their grounds where their facilities and office are held, and had three main activities to share with the lucky visitors:
- Theatre presentation made by children depicting working conditions and life on coffee farms.
- Round-table discussion with child & adolescent network leaders: masculinities network, reading network, entrepreneurs’ network. The very articulate and enthusiastic young people shared about their experiences going through these processes with CESESMA and developing their capacities in each interest area. They expressed the desire and importance of teaching others what they learned and to work with more children and youth in their communities. An understanding of change processes and the importance of personal development was expressed; especially on the issue of new masculinities in which it was evident much work has been done. This exchange was a demonstration of the work CESESMA has been doing in the community for decades as well as a favorable environment for working on the promotion of children’s rights.
- The present children also presented a publication of the child protection norms they have developed to share with government producers, parents, teachers and other children and requested the La Florida administrator and SCC director of programs to sign it. They also expressed gratitude to the administrator who provides them with great support and collaboration in their efforts.
- Lastly a fair of vocational training activities was displayed where children shared the different vocational training they have participated in such as: carpentry, agriculture, dance, sewing, jewelry making, and investigators.
La Laguna, El Cúa
The final field visit was to two small family-run coffee farms which are organic and fair-trade certified. These family farms are also supportive to promoting the protection and education of the children and youth involved in coffee production. The visit included the following:
- Conversation and explanation with the coffee plantations’ owners and families – describing their farms and about their coffee businesses;
- Presentation from partner La Culcumeca on the work they do in the region with the coffee plantation owners and the children and youth;
- Observation and discussion with younger children involved in vocational training, such as carpentry, bread and pastry making as well as handi-crafts. They also explained the reading and literacy activities they take part in.
- Display of a tool used by the Ministry of Labour to sensitized children and parents on exploitation and work safety using images.
- The second coffee farm was visited where community adolescents participate in technical training in organic agriculture provided by La Culcumeca. The young people demonstrated making different farming substances such as: organic fertilizer using horse manure, molasses and other natural substances, a serum for controlling plant disease, and an organic insecticide. These products are not sold though; they are used for their own farming at home. The suggestion was made by participants that they consider the commercialization of these products and sale to local farmers.
Feedback and observation comments from the group following the visit:
- Importance of the role of the state in making the intervention of Save the Children and partners successful, as well as the role of the private sector – the employers – in ensuring real impact of the projects’ efforts together with the civil society partners. It is also evident that the government has great respect for Save the Children and our work.
- The suggestion was made to facilitate spaces for employers/producers to dialogue and share with other producers not involved with the project to sensitize them and share successes.
- The participation and expression of the children and adolescents was impressionable, especially the work of the child and youth network promoters and their appropriation of the issues they have been trained in, such as new masculinities. This example also demonstrates the powerful potential role of girls and boys, accompanied by their parents and communities, to make positive changes in their communities and amongst peers. It is part of the ‘new social image’ of childhood which this project is allowing us to work on, through the focus on children and work.
- The different areas in professional training offered and that the children participate in the different workshops was an interesting approach. It was also interesting to see girls being trained in vocations not traditional for women, such as carpentry.
- It was also interesting to see that the focus on eradication exists in the region, especially in work by the Ministry of Labour but the work doesn’t end with eradication – they provide alternatives and training opportunities for youth to access decent work.
- Sexual health education is provided by the Ministry of Health who see it as their role to educate young people and prevent early pregnancy and STIs – this is a progressive approach in comparison to MoH in other CLW countries.
- There is evidence of long term impact that Save the Children and partners have in the region and their strong territorial presence. These actors have made the greatest effort possible within the given context.
- A strong network and relationships are evident from the ground up, from the children, to communities, to partners, to Save the Children in Nicaragua and Save the Children Canada.
- The commitment to fulfilling Child Rights within all partners and the communities is clear – and it is more than just discourse – you see this commitment and its fruits grounded in reality.
- There is a need to find new alliances to strengthen the component of entrepreneurship in the program.
- It is important to reflect with partners on their experiences in working with communities on the project – not just subgrant funds to them, but accompany them through this process.
- Save the Children should continue its efforts and focus on the area of Children & Work!