|© UNICEF Nepal/ 2008|
|Some of the participants in the UNICEF-supported youth peer group training in Sunsari, Nepal.|
By Avigail Shai
SUNSARI, Nepal, 2 October 2008 – Late one night, at the Lauki camp for flood survivors in the heart of Sunsari district, two women went into labour. Although the camp’s management committee was not immediately available, Ram Babu Sardar, 19, sprang into action, along with other members of a peer group formed by 16 young adults in the camp.
The peer group took the step of informing a local non-governmental organization and arranged for an ambulance to take the two women to the hospital. This was possible because Ram, along with 60 other young adults, had recently attended peer-group training session supported by UNICEF and Save the Children, and delivered by members of the local District Child Welfare Board and Women’s Development Office.
The training covered such diverse topics as child protection, sanitation and hygiene practices, sexual abuse and violence, and conflict resolution.
Effecting real change
Following the training, the young people went back to their respective camps and formed peer groups varying in size from 5 to 44 members. They set about educating their peers on various issues and taking their message to the wider community in the camps.
The groups did not stop at discussion. Many acted as a conduit for information, relaying the camps’ needs and issues to camp management committees as well as NGOs.
In doing so, the peer groups were able to effect real changes, such as an increase in bathing spaces for girls, the provision of more nutritious food for younger children and the fairer allocation of tarpaulins and other construction materials amongst camp households.
Creativity gets the message across
In Jhumka, a long-term relocation camp, members of the peer group have been invited to represent the interests of young people and of their wider community.
Ishaque Miya, 18, one of these representatives, came up with a unique way for the peer group to convey messages about child protection, conflict management and sanitation: He wrote a play and and performed it with his peers for the camp’s residents, eliciting a positive response from adults and children alike.
Ishaque hopes to become a teacher someday and is studying in Kapilbastu district. He was visiting his family for Ramadan when the floods hit and his family lost everything.
A positive impact
The participants in a follow-up training session were uniformly positive about the effects of the peer-group initiative.
“In the beginning, the older people did not trust our judgment,” said Ram. “But because we raised good ideas about health and sanitation, they now have more respect for us and listen to us on other issues like child protection. Now that we are united in our peer group, it is much easier for us.”