MY EXPERIENCE AS A COMMUNITY FACILITATOR IN SUHUM
Erasmus Fusese is a 34 year old painter. He is participating in the Tony’s Chocolonely Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System (CLMRS) in Suhum as a Community Liaison Person . He is one of three facilitators covering the Aponoapono community and is responsible for 30 farmers and their households. This project is being implemented in 13 communities in partnership with ABOCFA, a farmers’ cooperative in the area working with Tony’s Chocolonely, a Dutch chocolate maker, and ICI.
Erasmus recounts his experience.
At the early stages of the project implementation, some farmers were willing to talk to us while others were not interested because they have this perception that we want to brand their children as child labourers. The first awareness raising session was therefore held for the entire community to serve as an introduction to the CLMRS. This session included the executives of the farmer cooperative. We also went on to involve the Head Teachers of the schools in the community to get their buy-in for the project.
When we started visiting farmers and their households for data collection, we realised that some of the affected children were ready to return to school. When we encountered such cases, we talked to them and encouraged them to open up about their situation. I encountered such a case with one of the farmers I am working with. Two children in the house had dropped out of school. As a result of the household awareness raising session in that house using the picture box, both of these children are now in school. The box is one of the tools we use in awareness raising sessions.
As part of our interactions with the farmers, we realised that some had little or no knowledge of how to use and handle agrochemicals. But through the awareness raising sessions, some of these farmers are now more open to our interactions with them. I held a household awareness raising session in a house where I was later invited back to repeat it. They said they wanted a better understanding of child labour and what the system can do for them, before they get involved.
We learnt about child safeguarding at the training. We were asked to ensure that anytime we were interacting with the children in a farmer’s household, the parents must be present and close by. This is to help the parents monitor what is happening. We realised during our training that we are not here to identify child labourers but to seek protection for the children. That is our main purpose as Community Facilitators. We are not here to create trouble for parents.We are here to help.
With this understanding, the farmers now understand better the CLMRS process.They have become more welcoming to our visits and actually call their children to come for the interactions.
We normally do follow up visits after the awareness raising sessions to see if what we have planted has started germinating. We try to see if the farmers have made any efforts towards their children’s protection. Based on the feedback we get from these visits, I can say that so far, the implementation of the CLMRS in my community has been beneficial to ABOCFA, farmers and their children. The children need to know that they are the beneficiaries of the CLMRS so they can concentrate on their educational development.
Through the CLMRS, I have seen children putting in necessary effort to focus on their education.
We see that parents now teach their children how to grow cocoa in a responsible way, and know the difference between light, non-hazardous tasks and chores and hazardous forms of child labour.