CENTERING GRASSROOTS ACTORS IN NETWORKING FOR CHILD PROTECTION IN EAST AFRICA
Violence against children (VAC) is both a global and local concern that has resulted in several child protection initiatives by formal and informal networks in East Africa. The dominant narrative on networking for VAC prevention and response significantly focuses on the functionality of formal networks and ignores grassroots networks. We conducted research to explore the functionality and corresponding impact of diverse networks that work to prevent and respond to VAC in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Study participants were VAC network leads at grassroots, subnational, and national levels, and network funders. Data were collected using interviews, document review, and focus group discussions. We found that scholarly literature illuminates the role of formal networks at the expense of grassroots networks, which are ignored and minoritized in literature. This may contribute to a disparity between the funding of grassroots and formal networks. Yet, grassroots network actors are VAC first responders and are instrumental in child protection work. We contend that it is vital to center grassroots networks in VAC policies, programs, and research in order to achieve sustainable connections between networks, communities, and funders, and to empower communities to protect children from abuse.
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