UNICEF helps to create an environment that protects children and their rights through a comprehensive approach that creates a protective environment: proposing legislation, building capacity and working with communities to address social attitudes, traditions and practices that threaten the rights of children.
Three communication strategies are used to protect children: advocacy, social change processes and community capacity building.
UNICEF supports global and national advocacy interventions aimed at formulating effective legal frameworks to prevent violence, abuse, neglect and discrimination.
UNICEF also fosters social change interventions that directly involve families and communities. The critical challenge is to engage communities in changing deeply rooted harmful practices that they perceive as beneficial for children.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), for example, is a physically - and emotionally - traumatic practice but is seen as honourable entry into womanhood and, in some regions, as a demonstration of religious obedience. Families believe that FGM protects their daughters and benefits their future.
Early marriage is another example and in many cases is practised as a means of protecting girls from extreme poverty.
Creating dialogue with families, communities and stakeholders is therefore critical to the success of child protection programmes. UNICEF promotes communication strategies that help families and communities find alternatives to practices that violate children’s rights. Approaches such as working with community leaders, women’s groups and media have been successful in initiating important dialogues and setting an agenda for discussion.