SNAPSHOT> Where I Work

Trip Start Sep 08, 2006
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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Flag of Gambia  ,
Monday, January 8, 2007

I am working at an organization called CPA - The Child Protection Alliance.

CPA is an umbrella organization that advocates on child protection issues.

It does this mainly through running sensitization workshops with various sectors of the community on a particular topic.

The participants will be a specific group of key members of the community such as
such as religious leaders, village chiefs, headteachers, police, journalists etc. The workshop will provide a forum for them to begin discussing the issue and agree on the role they can play in tackling the problem in their own community.

The topic will be a specific child protection issue that is affecting children in The Gambia. These include:
- Sexual Exploitation - particually in relation to tourism
- Corporal Punishment - children may be beaten so hard in schools they suffer permanent damage
- Child Trafficking - children may be smuggled either out of the country or to urban areas within the country where they can be exploited
- Forced Labour - many children are sent out to work instead of to school
- Female Genital Mutilation (a common practice in 4 out of 5 of the major tribes here)

These are not easy issues and there is often a culture of silence surrounding them.
In Gambian tradition, children are expected to respect their elders and it may be very difficult for them to speak out or have a voice at all.
In addition, there are often huge misconceptions relating to the notion of "Child Rights" and one of the first barriers CPA must overcome is to dispel people's fears and suspicions about what this really means.

My role at CPA is a very flexible one. So far I've been involved in helping to write fundraising proposals, donor reports, monitoring and evaluation assessments, and the organization annual review; supporting the organization of workshops, and supporting the Voice network - a network of youth advocacy clubs.

I have had to be patient in taking time get to grips with the work of the organization and to carve out an effective role for myself but I'm happy to have reached a stage where I feel I am beginning to make a genuine contribution. The only major hiccup was the sudden disappearance of my line manager soon after my arrival (he went to the UK to study) but it hasn't turned out to be such as hiccup after all.

My office employs around 9 staff, plus receives occasional short-term interns from Sweden seeking practical social work experience. As is common practice in The Gambia we also have our own "messenger boy" who cycles round delivering mail where it's needed as there is no postal service. It is a very friendly environment and we mostly eat breakfast together each day whilst arguing over items in the daily newspaper. Two of my colleague recently got married which was a lovely surprise to those of us working there, and I was lucky enough to attend the wedding.

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