What do we do?
As a child rights advocacy organization, DCI-SL works for and with children and young people. We design our programme through wider consultation with children and young people, community based child protection mechanisms, traditional leaders and government institutions. Our strategic plan 2011-2014 has the following programmatic areas:
Child Justice - Promoting legal protection and justice for children in conflict with the law and child victims of violence and witnesses. This involves providing legal assistance to children to claim their rights (E.g right to property of their deceased parents in accordance with the Child Rights Act and the Devolution of Estate Act) and also be able to seek legal redress when in conflict with the law or abused. To ensure this, DCI-SL has established socio-legal defence centres in its operational areas. Children and/or their families – including children in conflict with the law, and child victims of abuse, exploitation and violence – come to the centres to seek advice and assistance from the staff, which consists of lawyers and social workers. The centres are located at our community-based offices throughout the country. Though run by DCI-SL, the centres are linked to community-based mechanisms like Child Welfare Committees, chiefs, courts, local hospitals and health centres, and police posts or Family Support Units of the Sierra Leone Police. These mechanisms form the referral network around the centres and make the work of the centres successful.
Ending Child Exploitation–We campaign and support communities to end sexual and economic exploitation of children. Hence we build child protection mechanisms particularly at community level to prevent and respond to child trafficking and child labour. We also work with transnational companies, the tourism industry including entertainment facilities to develop child protection policies and code of ethics for their staff and partners in order to prevent child abuse and exploitation by these institutions. We work with immigration, the security sector and community leaders to establish and build the capacity of cross-border surveillance mechanisms and networks that can prevent child trafficking and/or rescue and provide support to victims of trafficking including providing immediate advice and assistance, or refer victims to psychosocial, medical, legal or other services, as necessary
Promoting Civil Rights of Children–We promote and campaign for birth registration of all children as a way of regularizing their nationality and access to education and other services that require proof of identity. We apply community approach using community based mechanisms such as Ward Development Committees, Child Welfare Committees, Community leaders and Peripheral Health Units to campaign for and support registration of children. Another fundamental civil rights of children that we promote is child participation. We mobilize and organize children and young people into clubs and other groups and train and guide them to be able to engage local authorities on issues that affect them in a child friendly manner. We bring existing children and youth groups to form networks that make their voice louder and stronger.
Defence for Girls Initiative- DCI-SL also implements specialized programmes that promote equal rights and opportunities for girls and young women, in addition to the other projects that cater for all children. This is because girls face unique and peculiar challenges than boys embedded within culture and traditions of Sierra Leonean society. Certain violent practices including early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and sexual violence are either only or mostly targeted at girls and young women. Hence the Defence for Girls initiative was designed to provide protection and socio-economic and empowerment for girls and young women. This includes social mobilization for community support towards girls and young women and building the skills and confidence of girls and young women to resist and report abuses and be able to seek legal redress.
Civil society mobilization for joint advocacy- DCI-SL has gained tremendous experience in mobilizing and leading civil society organisations to engage national, regional and international mechanisms on children’s rights. A good example is the formation of the Child Rights Coalition Sierra Leone (CRC-SL).The CRC SL was formed in 2007 in preparation for the submission of the alternative report to the state report on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The CRC SL has since submitted alternative reports to the government’s reports on the two Optional Protocols to the UNCRC (in 2009). The CRC SL is currently recognized by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva and the African Committee of Experts on the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in Addis Ababa as the official civil society body responsible for alternative reporting on children’s rights in Sierra Leone. Similarly, DCI-SL has organized the Human Rights Defenders Network to monitor human rights situation in the country and engage national, regional and international human rights mechanisms to ensure improvement and remedy to human rights violations in the country.
Regional and international level advocacy- in addition to working through national coalitions and networks to engage regional and international child rights and human rights mechanisms, DCI-SL also carries out direct engagement with UN and AU (African union) bodies. In collaboration with the International Secretariat of Defence for Children International in Geneva, DCI-SL has been able to participate in and do presentations on child justice at the Human Rights Council meetings in Geneva on several occasions. DCI-SL has also recently (September 2014) engaged the World Health Organisation, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation on child protection issues and concerns relating to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in Sierra Leone and West Africa.