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Participatory planning through social mapping

© UNICEF Mongolia

UNICEF is pleased to be supporting Nalaikh district in its initiative to build a Child-Friendly Community. As part of this initiative, a participatory planning exercise was carried out in the 7th khoroo (neighbourhood) on 5-7 March, 2013, with the active involvement of community mobilisers, social workers and the khoroo Governor.

The planning exercise used a new social mapping tool, which helps local residents to assess availability of local social services and identify community priority issues that impact on children. Through this joint planning, the residents were able to discuss and better understand their common problems and actively seek solutions. Participants were able to discuss the ways how their khoroo could become a more child-friendly and citizen-friendly community.

One community mobilizer said that it became clear during the planning exercise that “we do not actually know the things that seem most familiar to us and we realised that many projects, programmes and government policies dedicated to the citizens often fail to pinpoint the actual needs and problems of the people”. For instance, they pointed to one case in which a motor road was built in the khoroo, but no sidewalk considered, which meant that local children had to walk on the road to get to school each day. This was particularly concerning because there had been several traffic accidents in the past in which children and adults were injured or killed. The group also identified that the neighbourhood was badly lit in some areas, and that the street lights installed during the elections had never been connected to electricity. Furthermore, they reported that a small number of local playgrounds had been built for children in the khoroo, but that children do not play in them because adults drink alcohol there due to the secluded  location of the playgrounds.
The objective of the mapping exercise is not to criticise what had previously been done, but instead look for solutions and undertake concrete steps to improve the situation. The participatory planning helped citizens of 7th khoroo to better understand their community and own resources as a group. It also demonstrated the vital importance of citizens’ participation in  developing  the community into a child-friendly one. During this three-day planning exercise, community members decided to focus their work on three priority issues: to raise the issue of sidewalks with the local authority and mobilise funds for their construction, to take action on installing the street lights to improve safety in neighbourhood and discuss with the residents about the proper use of playgrounds.
UNICEF and the community members of the 7th khoroo were very satisfied with the process and were optimistic that the social mapping exercise had brought together both residents and local government in better planning and taking steps toward creating a Child-Friendly Community in Nalaikh.



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