From: Footsteps 38

How to encourage children to share their views and take part in community activities

by Glenn Miles.

In community development, listening to people is seen to be an essential part of the process. However, even when participatory methods mean that the views of women, farmers, the elderly and the disabled, as well as community leaders, are heard, children are seldom consulted.

Why are children left out?

Why listen to children?

How can we listen?

A simple survey or list of questions can be prepared so that the views of many children can be heard. There are a number of ways of doing this: Individual surveys These are better for sensitive issues and for discovering how common are different kinds of health damaging behaviour.

Individual surveys take a lot of time. They can be written questionnaires or personal questions.

Focus groups Discovering children’s opinions, experiences or abilities may be easier in small groups. Children help to encourage new ideas from each other and more children’s views can be heard in a shorter time.

The type of questions asked must take into account:

Questionnaire surveys Questionnaires have been criticised for being clumsy compared to other methods but they are a relatively quick and easy way to do a survey with children. They are also a good way to learn about doing research with children and can be done in a classroom setting.

Who should listen?

Research with children can be done by health workers, teachers or youth leaders who are good at communicating with children. This means that as well as being good listeners they also need to be understandable in the way they communicate. You will know adults who children find it easy to talk to. Where sensitive subjects are being raised or children have been traumatised in some way, then the person doing the research should first receive training in communicating with children from a qualified person.

Concerns and considerations

Some questions that need to be considered before listening to children‘s views…

Glenn Miles has experience in Cambodia with Urban Community Health and at present works as a child development consultant for Tearfund. He can be contacted c/o Asia Team, Tearfund, 100 Church Road, Teddington, TW11 8QE, UK.
E-mail: gmmiles@compuserve.com

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