The University of Nairobi partners with UNICEF, CISP and ACCAF in launching new courses on keeping children safe

30 October 2023

Nairobi, 30 October 2023 – The University of Nairobi, in collaboration with the UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (UNICEF ESARO), as well as partners The International Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP) and Africa Coordinating Center for the Abandonment of FGM (ACCAF), launched two short Social Norms courses on keeping children safe and reducing harmful practices that impact children.

In recognizing the profound impact of harmful social norms on children and communities and the changes needed, these courses are now available to changemakers, including students across universities in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Somalia, as well as representatives from relevant government agencies at both the national and local levels, and members of civil society organizations in Kenya.

“The launch of the social norm change programming and measurement course comes at an opportune moment for the University, CISP, UNICEF and all other development partners. This course is a first locally and will enable us understand how behaviors are formed and the best approaches to gain positive social and behavioural change in communities with endemic harmful practices that include FGM,” stated Prof. Stephen Kiama, Vice Chancellor, University of Nairobi in a speech read on his behalf by Prof. Margaret Hutchinson, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation and Enterprise.

The training courses launched today demonstrate the immense potential of partnerships between academia, national institutions, and the development sector in empowering the current and future generation of service providers with the objective of promoting children’s and human rights on a larger scale.

Lieke van de Wiel, UNICEF ESARO Deputy Regional Director, emphasized further, “The partnership between academia and the development sector is an essential catalyst for creating meaningful and sustainable behaviour change for children. Academia’s research-driven expertise, when combined with the practical insights of the development sector, empowers us to better understand, address, and ultimately transform complex societal behaviors. It is through this collaboration that we can equip future generations with the knowledge and tools to promote positive change on a broader scale.”

“We are delighted to see the University of Nairobi actively engaging in a process that may lead to mainstreaming of social norms programming and measurement across faculties and more broadly in the Eastern and Southern Africa region,” added Lieke.

For many years, efforts to combat these harmful practices, accompanied by efforts in other critical sectors such as health, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), have predominantly centered around awareness-raising and communication campaigns. The underlying belief was that by making people aware of the consequences of their actions and the benefits of positive behavior, change would naturally follow. However, evidence has shown this approach often leads to short-lived behaviour change. One of the major challenges in understanding human behaviour is the need for a deeper understanding of the complexities associated with social norms and how to effectively measure change.

“This launch affords us a great learning experience and an opportunity to be part of a conversation of national importance. As a university, we intend to escalate the training to cover a wider catchment to build the necessary capacity for community champions drawn from civil society organizations, ministries of health, universities, teaching faculty and students,” added Prof. Margaret Jesang Hutchinson as she read the speech on behalf of Prof. Stephen Kiama, Vice Chancellor, University of Nairobi.

The Social Norms Courses have been developed with the technical and financial support of the Global Programme to End Child Marriage, which is jointly implemented by UNICEF and UNFPA in 25 countries, including Mozambique, Zambia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda. These programs have over the years contributed significantly to generating knowledge and potentially effective solutions to address harmful social norms.

“We combined our expertise to co-create these short courses, building upon an existing foundation developed by UNICEF, UNFPA, and other esteemed partners. CISP supported the UoN [University of Nairobi] lecturers through a ToT [training of trainers] and provided the CSO [civil society organization] context while the seasoned lecturers injected their experience and teaching prowess into the training programme. We could not have asked for a better partnership, and together, we co-created this programme,” said Michele Stella, CISP Country Representative in Kenya and Somalia.

Media contacts

Dennis Omido Ochande
Communication Officer, Directorate of Corporate Affairs
University of Nairobi
Tel: +254 0725215269
Faith Kamau
Social Media and Web Content Developer
International Committee for the Development of Peoples (CISP)
Tel: +254 115 351024

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For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.

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