‘Pikin to Pikin Tok’ – A response to Ebola

September 9, 2016

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Submitted by Tricia Young, Director of Child to ChildThe ‘Pikin to Pikin Tok’ project is featured on UNGEI’s newly launched Documenting Good Practice website. You can read more good practice case studies from across the globe by visiting www.goodpracticefund.org.

When the devastating Ebola outbreak occurred in Sierra Leone in 2014, Child to Child had been working in the remote, impoverished Kailahun district implementing a participatory early years and life-skills education programme in collaboration with local partner, Pikin to Pikin (PtP) Movement (meaning “Child to Child Movement” in the local Krio language)[1].  The first cases of Ebola were reported in Kailahun, and by March 2014 an emergency was declared, with nation-wide school closures and a ban on public gatherings.

Pikin to Pikin Tok (PtPT) – a child-centred radio for education project – emerged to respond to this unparalleled humanitarian crisis replacing the original early childhood education programme. Pikin to Pikin Tok was designed to empower boys and girls to address issues faced by children during and after Ebola.  Pikin to Pikin Tok had a strong focus on gender equality, and positive role modelling for girls. We also focused specifically on the importance of girls’ education and retention in school – this was especially important in a country that was still recovering from a conflict that had raged for more than a decade. However, we needed to separate the different strands of impact, in order to identify exactly what had worked – and how.

Child to Child worked closely with 36 Young Journalists in Kailahun district and an award-winning production team, who helped co-create child-friendly radio programmes broadcast on the regional station, Radio Moa.  The BBC World Service documentary, Ebola Voices, provides an insight into how children co-created content, which included songs and stories conveying powerful messages.

Documenting learning

Pikin to Pikin Tok was the result of rapid adjustment to a changing context. It was designed to respond to the needs of boys and girls, directly responding to the disruption in their opportunities to learn but also to build resilience in the aftermath of both Ebola and civil conflict.

The challenge, however, was to identify how to best record the impact of a complex, multi-dimensional project with intangible outcomes, like changes in attitudes and behaviour. Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 17.35.12Although the objectives of the original early years project remained more or less the same, the method of delivery had been completely reconfigured to respond to the needs of children in this vastly changed context, in order to ensure that their voices and concerns about those matters affecting them would be heard and taken during this difficult time.

We knew that some of the most important outcomes of the project would be related to the issues faced by girls and women. We were strongly aware that girls and women had been among the worst affected after Ebola – in 2014, Humanist Watch Salone documented a 30% rise in sexual assaults; Marie Stopes a 50% rise in teenage pregnancies. These were among the issues that the radio programmes sought to highlight and address, in culturally sensitive and age-appropriate ways.

Positive impact of documentation

Documenting good practice helped identify strengths and helped to inform future programme design. We discovered what themes were most relevant, were best retained, and could be linked to transformation in communities. As an example, our radio programmes actually stimulated the expansion of girls’ support networks. Having heard from the girls and their mothers on how things changed, gender will remain an important thematic priority for the radio programmes.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 17.30.52One of the most important findings was the identification of enabling factors for greater impact. For example, the research confirmed that the distance from the child’s home to the listening group affected participation, and that the little “pikins” were more likely to participate and learn if their friends were involved. Our project manager saw for herself the poor road infrastructure in these communities; no solar street lighting, small passage ways through the dense forest or roads which often disappear in the rainy season. We also saw how boys and girls in our formal listening groups understood and internalised the messages more effectively, compared to those listening informally in their homes.

The process also helped flag up priorities for our own end term evaluation, which is currently underway. For example, we learnt what to consider when measuring how boys and girls link learning from the radio programmes to their own lives.

Documenting stories and evidence has also helped identify which factors could make a real difference in children’s lives. The case study has provided further irrefutable evidence of this and the fact that girls and boys are the experts on their own realities. It has helped us to strengthen our advocacy on the importance of listening to children and taking them seriously. At Child to Child we have always believed that when children work together, they can change their world.

[1] This project began in 2011 and was being funded by UK donor Comic Relief.

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