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Civil society partnerships

Identify strategic entry points

Leaders of religious communities

Clerics, bishops, rabbis, imams, priests, abbots, nuns, shamans, etc. – as well as lay leaders and leaders of coordinating bodies and inter-religious associations – can be powerful allies in advocacy for children’s rights  nationally and internationally. Religious leaders speak with authority on behalf of significant portions of the population, and they bring that authority and legitimacy to child rights work that may be perceived as primarily secular, particularly when the focus is on legal or political reform. It is important to identify the leadership level at which engagement is necessary for the planned programming (e.g., national, district, local), particularly with religious communities that are very hierarchical.

Women of faith networks

Women of faith networks in any community care for vulnerable children and their families, including orphans, persons living with HIV and survivors of gender-based violence. For large segments of the female population, women of faith leaders give voice to their needs regarding reproductive health, sexuality and other topics that may be deemed taboo by male religious leaders. Many women of faith working on the periphery of formal religious structures "shape religious traditions in less obvious but influential ways.”

Youth groups

Youth groups within religious communities have the capacity to harness the energy of young people of faith. These young people know first-hand the needs as well as the strengths of children and youth and they can work on child rights issues with authenticity. However, it is important to ensure youth groups are inclusive and encourage opportunities for marginalized young people to be involved; participation needs to provide equal opportunity for all, without discrimination on any grounds.

Faith-based organizations (FBOs)

FBOs are structured similarly to other NGOs but their efforts are grounded in the tenets and values of a particular faith. Both international FBOs – such as World Vision, Islamic Relief and Catholic Relief Services, among many others – and national or local ones can establish credibility and authority with local religious communities and, in many instances, continue to provide support beyond the duration of specific projects. Beyond this, many FBOs have locally connected operational networks that can be mobilized for response. For example, the global Caritas network for the Catholic Church and the national and local church-based structures are the means by which Catholic Relief Services carries out all its emergency and development programmes. Such networks can enable FBOs to respond in an efficient and sustainable manner and reach into communities in ways that secular NGOs often cannot.

Theologians and educators

Theologians and educators play an important role in articulating and disseminating the beliefs and teachings of religious communities and garner enormous respect. While those with very extreme or radical views can be alienating, and even perpetuate harmful practices, mainstream theologians can be a powerful force in changing attitudes and behaviours. As educators, they can examine and interpret basic concepts and principles of child rights and demonstrate the relevance of these to their belief systems. They are key actors in confronting and changing social norms that are harmful to children but may be perceived to be religiously mandated by members of the community.

Inter-religious mechanisms

Individual religious communities bring to every partnership assets that contribute to ensuring the well-being of children. When the collective energy and resources of a number of these communities is harnessed, positive outcomes can be multiplied.

Inter-religious approaches to child rights partnerships can broaden the base of shared values; in conflict situations particularly, those in which ethnic and/or religious issues are points of tension can be a powerful display of the positive and unifying power of religion for communities who have come to view differences as divisive. Focusing on the needs of children can actually serve as a bridge to bring together parties that normally do not wish to deal with each other.



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