This Humanitarian Day, Ms. Bushra Zulfiqar our Regional Director in Asia, tells us why it is important to listen to children's voices.
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. But, 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; listen to their opinions, their voices, their dreams and their vision. Keep people at the centre of everything. Build a trusted relationship with them. 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. Our latest global strategy, Listen Up!, focuses on placing children at the centre of our efforts, where we give them a platform to speak up. We don’t see ourselves as ‘providers’ but as ‘enablers of systemic change’ who listen to what children want, empowering them to make their voices count. Our programmes are designed in consultation with children and communities, where we co-create solutions to problems, bringing about many successful community-led efforts, while advocating with authorities to ensure people’s needs are met.
This Humanitarian Day, we celebrate our children and their voices. To observe this occasion, during the 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 4 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. This humanitarian day 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.
Ms Bushra Zulfiqar is our Regional Director in Asia. She oversees all operations in the region.
She brings with her almost two decades long work experience in international development and human rights, both at the policy-making and implementation levels in Asia and around the world. Bushra has worked in various senior management and leadership roles with United Nations, World Bank, UK Government Department for International Development as well International NGOs.