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Placing caregiving children on the international policy agenda

From analysis to action: HCD group spearheads multi-level 'knowledge engagement' exercise to advance policy

In line with the LSE's Strategic Plan (2010-2015) which emphasises public engagement as one of its Strategic Priorities, the Health, Community and Development group has with funding from the LSE Higher Education and Innovation Fund disseminated research findings on HIV-affected and caregiving children in Kenya to international, regional and local development agents and policy-makers as well as grassroots communities. To engage with key policy actors as well as the general public, we organised six key activities, starting with community members in rural Africa, gathering their perspectives to inform national and international policy actors.

Activity 1: With support from a local NGO in western Kenya, nearly 300 community members took part in community conversations about how best to support caregiving children. The community members received a booklet, detailing key findings of our study with caregiving children, and drew on local knowledge to articulate their perspectives and recommendations on how best to support caregiving children.

Activity 2: Morten Skovdal and Cathy Campbell of HCD travelled to Nairobi to meet with government officials, multi/bi lateral and NGO representatives to discuss ways in which caregiving children can be supported. The meeting was co-organised with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development, Kenya.

Picture 1: Participants discussing ways to support caregiving children

The meeting was opened by Dr. James W. Nyikal, Permanent Secretary of Social Development within the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development, who underlined the importance of this meeting by acknowledging there is a gap in current policy and practice. During this high-level national meeting, delegates were presented with our research and the perspectives of community members, providing them with a platform to discuss ways to support caregiving children.

Activity 3: The next step was to share our research findings, community perspectives and outcomes of our meeting with national policy makers with international actors. In partnership with the UK Consortium for HIV/AIDS and International Development, we hosted a meeting with key international stakeholders to discuss new directions for policy and practice in the support of caregiving children in Africa. The participants represented an impressive mix of stakeholders from academia, multilateral organisations, international NGOs as well as various interest groups and service providers.

Picture 2: Meeting participants

Discussions at the meeting outlined possible pathways to overcome obstacles that prevent caregiving children from taking priority in policy and practice.

Activity 4: Alongside these meetings for invited delegates, we had over a 6 week period an exhibition at the LSE Atrium.

The exhibition was titled: 'Picturing life as a young carer in Africa' and portrayed what life is typically like for caregiving children in Kenya and Zimbabwe – two countries hit hard by HIV/AIDS. The exhibition featured drawings and photographs by children aged 10-17 from two rural communities. The images were collected as part of a two research projects at ISP, which aimed to explore children's perspectives on the impact of HIV/AIDS on their lives.

Picture 4: Example of a drawing at the exhibition

The exhibition provided a platform for various press on the issue of young caregiving, leading to both a piece on The Guardian website, which also featured a picture gallery of the exhibition. The British Medical Journal, volume 342 (14 May) also featured an example of the exhibition.

Activity 5: To enable children and youth also to reflect on our findings, we invited British young carers to the LSE for a workshop.

Twenty-two young carers from three boroughs of London and six social workers came to view and reflect on the young carers exhibition in the LSE Atrium.

carers at the atrium
Picture 4: British young carers at exhibition

The young carers actively participated in the workshop, completed worksheets and discussed differences and similarities caregiving by children in Africa and the UK. One social worker said: "It has been great to see the young carers engage with an issue so relevant to them and that they are somehow connected to people in a similar position as far away as Africa who are ultimately doing the same thing". The youth also had the chance to meet older young carers who have had the opportunity to attend university for some advice and aspiration. One young carer said: "I've learnt that just because we are a young carer does not mean that we can't go onto further education e.g. University".

Activity 6: The last activity ties them all together through an International Network for Caregiving Children. INCCThe International Network for Caregiving Children (INCC) currently consists of 70 members who represent academia, the International NGO community and local community organisations. We established the network in response to a growing recognition of the role of caregiving children in resource poor settings. Through a website it provides academics, NGO practitioners, civil society groups and caregiving children and youth with a platform to share and develop their knowledge about the circumstances that characterise the lives of caregiving children. In doing this, the INCC aims to facilitate the development of policy and practice of collective action for the improved health and well-being of caregiving children in resource poor settings.

The International Network for Caregiving Children
WVP Kenya
Ministry of Gender, Kenya
UK Consortium for AIDS and development

Background papers:

Life trajectories of caregiving children in Kenya
Coping strategies of caregiving children
Directions for policy and practice