Our research was funded for a month in Kyaka II refugee settlement in March by a UNHCR Small Grant to undertake a broad mapping of refugee children’s participation in protection. The aims of the UNHCR funded research include:
- To undertake an initial ‘mapping’ of children’s participation in GIZ / UNHCR child protection mechanisms in Kyaka II refugee settlement in Uganda.
- To explore with key humanitarian actors the extent to which they are encouraging and supporting children’s participation in their child protection response in a refugee ‘camp’ setting, and with what results.
- To explore the views and experiences of refugee children on their participation in their own protection.
The research activity included participatory workshops with children and humanitarian staff as well as interviews with practitioners and observation of protection processes in the settlement. Eight participatory workshops were run (lasting 2-3 hours each) with groups of refugee children including:
- 2 workshops with children in school
- 6 workshops with children not attending school
- 4 workshops with children aged 6-10 years
- 4 workshops with children aged 11-16 years
- 2 all girls groups (one 6-10 yrs and one 11-16 yrs)
- 4 zones in the settlement – Bujubuli (School), Byabakora (Community), Kaborogota (Community) and Swe Swe (Reception Centre)
Workshops were organised and delivered with 3 refugee incentive workers, two who have a protection role in the zones targeted and 1 employed to work as a Translator for the research. All have experience of working with children and some child friendly translation / interpretation skills. Workshops involved games, a participation in protection mapping activity (either through drawing, making and using puppets and/or small group discussions), ideas for change / innovation and evaluation activity.
Five interviews with GIZ, UNHCR and OPM protection and community services staff conducted to date as well as participation in protection mapping workshop with relevant GIZ, UNHCR and OPM staff. The mapping workshop involved an activity to get a sense of where different individuals and organisations stand in terms of their views, experiences, knowledge and practice of child participation. In small groups, practitioners then mapped out the different opportunities for children to participate in their own protection at home, school, community, organisational and other levels in Kyaka II. Contributions were made on the barriers and support available in the settlement in relation to child participation.
The Researcher has been able to observe some of the refugee protection processes / spaces, for example to visit the Reception Centre in Swe Swe as well as sit in on some of the interviews with the REC (Refugee Eligibility Committee who conduct Refugee Status Determination interviews) including those with unaccompanied minors. Anna was given a copy of the REC interview form. Anna was able to assist the interviewer using drawing as a tool to help a young child to express his story and why he fled his country of origin. She also handed out drawing materials and played games with young children as a diversion while waiting for interviews.
This UNHCR funded research has also built connections, laid foundations and provided insights for the HIF Small Grant field research to come in April-June:
- Community links and capacity building – the Researcher recruited, selected and has worked for a month with a Translator / Interpreter from the refugee community as well as three refugee Community Workers who have a protection focus across the settlement. This has enabled building relations with and access to refugee communities; community sensitisation about the research and recruiting refugee children and gaining consent for participatory workshops. These networks and contacts will be essential for support and to gain acceptance for the HIF funded research. Together, we are already thinking how to best support the innovation process with refugee children in Kyaka II.
- Piloting methods – the UNHCR funded research has involved participatory workshops with refugee children, observation and interviews / workshops with humanitarian practitioners. The same methods will be used for the HIF funded research. There has been very useful learning in terms of locations to conduct workshops with children; concepts related to protection that children do / do not understand; activities that children do / do not enjoy as part of the workshops as well as questions that require further explanation. There has also been learning from observation of key protection sites, identifying key sites and groups for the innovation process e.g. the reception centre in the settlement; bringing unaccompanied children located across the settlement together for workshops and discussion.
- Networking with partner agencies – a participation in protection workshop has been run with protection and community services staff from OPM, UNHCR and GIZ. This has provided information on the spaces, mechanisms and opportunities for children to participate in their own protection in the settlement. Further networking with other agencies, for example Right to Play, has generated other ideas for engaging children in the innovation process. For example, Right to Play and their trained community coaches are able to work with the Researcher to hold an ‘innovation day’ engaging a larger number of refugee children than would be possible in workshops, conducting activities and innovation focus groups.
- An initial map of child participation in protection in Kyaka II – although the research data collated has not yet been systematically analysed, some key issues are emerging of relevance for the HIF funded research. Firstly, despite putting in place a multi-layer approach to child participation in protection in Kyaka II – for example, reporting mechanisms at school and community levels; protection ‘spot checks’, child representatives on protection related committees – there is a recognition by practitioners that the refugee protection process itself and its interventions need a more innovative approach in relation to children. Secondly, although older children have had contact with key protection organisations (UNHCR, GIZ) and understand their role and remit and the protection process, younger children seem unaware of the protection available to them if not provided through their community, home or school. If they are not unaccompanied or separated children and being worked with individually through the more participatory Best Interests Assessment or Determination procedures (BIA and BID), there are limited opportunities for these children to give their views and opinions as part of the protection process, for example in Refugee Status Determination interviews or in the Reception Centre. Thirdly, particular aspects of the refugee protection process are identified by both staff and children as in need of change – the Reception Centre, for example, is not considered as a child friendly space and children and staff have a range of ideas about how it could be different.
I return to Kyaka II to conduct the HIF funded research from the 13th April to the 9th June and will continue to update the blog accordingly. Please feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org with any thoughts and views in relation to the blog or our project – all input and discussion is welcome - and I will reply when internet access in the field allows.
Anna Skeels, PhD Student, CMPR – Swansea University