THE POWER OF EMPOWERING CHILDREN
Ba-ngo Patae, a small village lays deep in the heart of Ruso district Narathiwat province. The village is 70 kilometres from Narathiwat city, surrounded by green leafy rubber farm where majority of population are rubber tappers. The distance does not make the village disconnected to the modernisation, back before 2013 children and youth in the village spent their leisure time at a local arcade. In local context, the arcade does not serve as it should be, it is where drug dealers meet their customers which mostly are youth. This issue had been one of the most serious issues among children and youth in Ba-ngo Patae village.
In 2013, Save the Children and Foundation of Children development under EU support, launched KAMPONG SUENAE project, where Ba-ngo Patae village was one of the communities the project approached. Starting from there, children, youth and community leaders learned to form a systematic mechanism and sort out children issues and other local problems.
“Parents came to me and discuss, how do we convince the children not to go to the arcade so that they can stay away from the drug abusers,” said Habay Hulukareng, one of the village youth leaders. Parents and village members always come to discuss with youth leaders to solve issues, especially concerning children and parenting.
Braheng Huluwaloh, the village religious leader and Usman Sotapun, head of the village say children have collectively worked hand-in-hand with the existing village social mechanism after attending trainings supported by EU through KAMPONG SUENAE project.
Going through several trainings and forums, the elder community members then decided that children should play a role in village councils. Currently, children and youth have their representatives in the village council and at the same time joined the village mosque’s committee. This practice might not be a common practice in local context, but the head of the village emphasise that village members should treat children with respect, and the best way to hear their voices and ideas is to train them and finally allow them to voice their opinion to the village members.
LEAP (Local Engagement to Advocate for Peace) project continues to support Ba-ngo Patae community mechanism to provide skills and knowledge for their civil society. The project is providing series of training on child-friendly space, volunteer empowerment, collaboration with local authorities and advocacy, specially to promote the importance of child-friendly space. This is a reflection from Habay Hulukareng, the children and youth leader:
“We discuss the problem of the arcade in our village with children who spent their time there, the head of the village, the religious leader. The children say they have nothing to do after school, their parents are still at work and the arcade is the only place children gather up to do activities. The same place is where drug dealers meet their customers and children will be likely exposed to drugs. Therefore, the village leaders along with children and community members develop the field in the middle of the village for afterschool activities and sports. Children and youth come to play football and other outdoor activities. Couple of months later, most of the children join outdoor activities at the field and the arcade has less customer until their closedown. I have heard the best way to protect and safeguard the children is with the community mechanism, I think we have made it in our village.”
Ba-ngo Patae village have became the best practice of building mutually respectful and supportive relation between adults and children. Empowering children as part of community leading team, providing support, and giving them the opportunity to raise their voice. In return, children and youth approach problems and solution positively.