Here you will find links to other OVC resources available on the Internet This link provides you with a printer friendly version of the OVC Toolkit in Adobe Acrobat format! Please give us your comments and suggestions for the OVC Toolkit! If your Internet connection is slow you can copy the Toolkit to your computer and browse it from there!
ØDeveloping OVC Policies

ØBackground data
ØConsulting with stakeholders
ØDeciding what to do
ØCommon pitfalls
ØMonitoring and evaluation
ØRoles and responsibilities
ØCosting issues


Recommended Reading:

So you want to consult with children? A toolkit on best practices from Save the Children.

UNICEF's Principles for ethical reporting on children

A parrot on your shoulder: A guide for people starting to work with orphans and vulnerable children

State of the World's Children 2003 on Participation from UNICEF showcases examples of meaningful child participation.

Ethical Approaches to Gathering Information from Children and Adolescents in International Settings

  Consulting with Stakeholders

Why consult with OVC and children at risk

There are three main reasons why you should consider consulting directly with OVC and children at risk directly:

  • Your primary reason to consult with OVC and at-risk children is to ensure that your project design is well adapted to the needs of its intended beneficiaries. When listening attentively to what children express, you may find that they have observed things that adults would not have grasped independently, or would not have wanted to bring up. Meeting with OVC, observing their life situation, and listening to their views will improve your perception of many facets that could make or break your project design. Children's observations and views complement and often challenge those of adults. They serve as a means of verifying your other findings and help you to redefine your questions as you consult with other stakeholders.

  • A second, very important reason to consult with OVC is that children have a right to be consulted about policies and interventions that will affect them. All our African counterpart governments have ratified and are committed to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Article 12 of the CRC states that "States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child." Disabled children in particular are explicitly granted a full right to participation by the CRC's Article 23.

  • Finally, consulting children is good in itself because it is empowering. It helps boost children's self-esteem, allows children to learn to take some responsibility for and think constructively about their own situation. In addition, it shows adults in the community the importance of listening to what children have to say. These effects are particularly strong for girls who are less likely than boys to have had the opportunity to express their own views. Children - and in particular OVC - act as decision makers more often than is commonly assumed. It is therefore important to take their opinions into consideration in order to design projects that positively affect their decision making.


How to consult with OVC and children at risk?

Consultations with children are best conducted as part of the general community consultation. They can be organized with the assistance of community leaders, local teachers or social workers. Children can be consulted either independently or in focus groups, or preferably, through a combination of both. Here are some basic do's and don'ts:

  • Ask parents or care takers for permission before consulting with children
  • Ask the child for permission, and leave the child with a realistic chance to decline
  • Mildly encourage timid and nervous children to consider sharing their views, or you may end up with the most vocal who are not always those with the most valuable or representative contributions
  • Explain to the child why you want to consult with him/her and how you will use the input
  • Use local interviewers with experience communicating with children - but who are unrelated to the child - to ensure the child's free expression
  • Mixed gender focus groups can be good, in particular among younger children, but you may want to consider giving girls their own space
  • Both focus groups and individual children should be removed from listeners that could intimidate the children and reduce their ability to express themselves freely and fearlessly
  • Be patient and respectful. Ask follow-up questions to assure the child that you are listening and to ensure you understand the answers well
  • Don't consult a child unless you are prepared to listen and to adjust your perspectives according to what the child has to say
  • Don't talk down to the child - place yourself at his or her level
  • Don't interrupt, stress or laugh at the child
  • Don't persuade the child to talk about extremely sensitive issues, unless you can follow up the consultation with support or assistance. This is particularly the case when asking about the child's own abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation
  • Don't take pictures without asking the child for permission, and respect the child if he or she declines
  • Don't use children's names and pictures without permission, and never to illustrate other issues than those related to the particular child. Each child has an identity
  • Be cautious about using pictures of children in relation to sensitive issues like AIDS and cultural taboos, and never take/use pictures and names of children who have been exposed to prostitution, pornography, rape and sexual abuse


Special challenges related to consulting OVC

Consulting OVC can be particularly challenging for three reasons.

  • First, many OVC are psychologically repressed and not accustomed to being asked to express their opinions. This would, for instance, be the case of some working children and some children living with disabilities. Patience is, therefore, necessary. Games, animations and real life stories may help break the ice and facilitate for an improved exchange.

  • Second, many OVC have been forced to conceal issues perceived as shameful or traumatizing. Children who are affected by AIDS or have been exposed to sexual abuse may be particularly vulnerable to these types of feelings. Talking about these issues may further traumatize the child. If you want to consult children who are likely to fall in this category, make sure that you have professional personnel who can adequately deal with traumatic issues.

  • Third, some OVC in extreme situations have adopted survival strategies that are based on making up stories. It is important to understand that these stories are not lies, but reality distortions that are necessary for the child to cope with extreme realities. This is often the case with street children, children with substance abuse problems, child prostitutes and some child soldiers. Commonly, the child tries to give you the impression that he or she is OK in the current situation, has chosen to be there, and is fully in control. Or, to the contrary, a child may aim to appear as pathetic as possible to gain your sympathy, concealing possible resources and sources of support. To understand these children better, you may want to use repeated consultations and triangulation, or approach the child accompanied by someone who knows the child and whom the child trusts. While you will be interested in breaking through the surface of the stories told in order to understand the child's situation well, you should be aware that it may be harmful to the child to confront painful realities.


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