The NGO Forum, a reference on children’s rights in Côte d’Ivoire

chidren's rights protection Cote Ivoire

Slimane Amansag

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ivory Coast

Read the biography
One day, an Ivorian friend told me: "If you believe in what you are doing, you will be able to improve anything you want". I have been involved in children's rights for more than ten years now, first as a volunteer and then as a professional, and I still believe in this thought. We can make a difference, we just have to believe in the cause we are defending and believe that we can succeed.

My main objective over the last few years as Executive Director of the Amane Foundation for Child Protection, one of the partner organisations of the PRIDE project, has been to advocate for a better future for children in Morocco. In 2019, I had my first opportunity to travel abroad to the United States, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The year 2019 was for me the year of first experiences, I had the opportunity for the first time to travel abroad to the United States, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. These visits shaped my ambitions as I realised that all over the world, children are being denied their rights. No matter how developed a country is, there will always be gaps, flaws and weakness in the the child protection system that must be addressed. This is why I wanted to volunteer with the International Bureau for Children's Rights: to support the improvement of systems and practices for the promotion and protection of children's rights in other countries.

The NGO Forum

April 2021 was the beginning of an important story in my life, with the NGO Forum in Abidjan. As a consultant in organisational management, my mission is to accompany the Forum in the strengthening of coordination processes and tools, the development of collaborative dynamics between the actors of the Ivorian child protection system, and in the development of strategies and plans for monitoring the implementation of the National Child Protection Policy and the recommendations of national, regional and international reports on the subject.

Actors in the defence, promotion and protection of children consider the Forum as the central organisation for NGOs in Côte d'Ivoire. With the support of its sixty member organisations, the Forum succeeded in pushing the Ivorian government to submit a report to the International Committee on the Rights of the Child. It has played a major role in the creation of the Children's Parliament in Côte d'Ivoire, which, according to several actors involved in the promotion of children's rights, including state actors, would not have been possible without the advocacy of the Forum.

The recognition of the Forum by the Ivorian State makes it the sole representative of civil society on the Committee of Experts (part of the Interministerial Committee for the Protection of the Child), whose mission is to coordinate the National Child Protection Policy.

Child participation is one of the four strategic axes of the forum, alongside advocacy, community mobilisation and capacity building. According to a child participant in a focus group I conducted as part of the Forum's strategic planning, the participatory approach of children in developing the work is valuable:

It teaches us the associative life, we are children, but from now on, we know what is good for our neighbour, we know how to be attentive, we know how to work in a group, we know how to listen to the other, we know the right of the other, we know how to respect the decisions of our relative; […] it teaches us the associative life, and it teaches us to become a leader, to [express ourselves].

During my mandate, I was able to carry out an assessment of the national child protection policy, facilitate capacity building workshops for the Forum's NGO members; and develop a strategic plan for the Forum to look ahead to the next few years. During the process of developing this strategic plan, I interviewed all stakeholders in the work of the Forum, including its bodies (executive secretariat, thematic groups and regional delegations), member NGOs, state partners, donors, parents/guardians of children in vulnerable situations, and especially children. In talking to the children, I was very surprised by their level of knowledge, skills and investment. One of the girls had a vision for her country:

a nation that knows the rights of children, a nation where children know their rights and also their duties, a nation where all children go to school; where there are training centres open to promote the life of everyone; a nation where there are educated, competent, dynamic young people; a nation that has a maximum of educated young people who are proud to be Ivorians; a nation where there is no discrimination and where there is equality and respect. In a word: I see a nation that promotes the rights of children and a better environment for all.

Following these exchanges, the participating children said they enjoyed the activity and asked for more similar activities, believing that it would strengthen their capacities. In order to share what they learned during the workshop with other children, they promised to share the experience with other children's clubs.

Finally, I would like to say that hospitality is an Ivorian character. The first day I arrived at the office, the Forum's coordination team welcomed me with a dish of Attieké fish, which has now become my favourite dish. My experience and mission in Côte d'Ivoire have been enriched by the love and human joy of the people I have met.

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Volunteer cooperation program funded by Global Affairs Canada.