15 September 2016

Building a child-friendly community



Batchimeg, a 15 year-old girl, in front of her school “Chandmani” in Nalaikh district, Mongolia
©UNICEF Mongolia/2016/Enkhzul Altangerel

       Imagine a girl walking back home from school on a cold winter evening in the outskirts of the city. It’s already dark outside, and the road is only lit by the dim light of moon. Dogs are barking, yet nowhere to be seen. The road is dangerous for anyone, let alone children. Two years ago that was the reality for 15 year-old Batchimeg, on her way back home from school.
 

Batchimeg lives with her parents and five siblings in a small ger, in Nalaikh district, a peri-urban area of Ulaanbaatar. She studies in 8th grade at Chandmani school. Batchimeg is an outgoing and an athletic student, who likes running and playing volleyball and basketball.

“I love running, and have participated in a local marathon this year. I mostly like to run mid-distance. This year, I also joined my school’s volleyball team. School is so much fun, because not only you get to learn new things, but you also make new friends through sports and extracurricular activities” she says.

Though she enjoys spending her time at school, the road from her home to school is not paved, and did not have any street lights.

“When I went home late from school, it would be already dark outside, especially in winter. It was difficult to see a road. Also there are many stray dogs, and I would be so afraid that they might attack. My brother was attacked once” Batchimeg recalls.

Now Batchimeg is not afraid anymore. The local authorities decided to install street lights with Local Development Fund (LDF). The Local Development Fund is monetary assistance provided directly to local governments both in rural areas and in Ulaanbaatar for projects that improve the living standards of local residents. The allocation of the LDF money is decided through involvement of community members.


Batchimeg and her family in front of their ger (home)
©UNICEF Mongolia/2016/Enkhzul Altangerel
Batchimeg’s parents are very happy about the change. “My children have late classes, so I would get really worried about them. Sometimes my husband and I would go out with torch to pick them up from school. But now with the lights installed, I am less worried that it is dangerous out there. I hope that more street lights will be installed so that children can live in safe environment” says Erdenechimeg, Batchimeg’s mother.

For the past two years, several projects for children have been funded by LDF including installment of street lights and speed bumps for improving the safety of children, renovation of a secondary school and expansion of a kindergarten to support children’s education.

The community people identify the issue during their meetings, and vote for the projects to be funded by the Local Development Fund (LDF). One of biggest concerns in 2015 was lack of playgrounds for children. As a result of public’s voting, the authorities decided to renovate and extend the existing playground” explains the community social worker Mr.Munkhbayar.

Children were very happy with their newly renovated playground. 

Enkhjin and her friend are enjoying the newly renovated playground,
a project which was funded by Local Development Fund
©UNICEF Mongolia/2016/Enkhzul Altangerel
“I come to play at the playground at least three times a week. The fences are new, and new recreational equipment were installed. They are really nice and fun. I can see more children coming here to play now than before” says Enkhjin, a third grader at Chandmani school.

The community is planning to do more for the well-being of children. “In 2016, we are going to improve the heating system at the school, as it can be very cold in winter. Also, sanitation facilities for children with disabilities, more street lights, and school buses are in the plan” Mr.Munkhbayar added. 


Increasing local investment for children
                                                      
UNICEF has been actively promoting child-focused governance, investment and integrated delivery of social services in Nalaikh district since 2012. The district administration organized several meetings with community members, and distributed brochures to highlight the importance of investment in children’s well-being as part of the Child Friendly Community (CFC) initiative by UNICEF.

As a result, the community members voted for projects that aimed to improve children’s health, protection and development, and the amount of money allocated for children increased every year, reaching 32.4% of LDF in 2015 compared to 19% in 2014 and 3.2% in 2013.

“The CFC initiative has been very successful in improving child well-being in Nalaikh district. Everyone from the staff at local administration to community people now have a very positive approach to children’s rights, and prioritize children’s well-being above any other issues. As a result, we have been able to allocate bigger budget for children, namely 73% of the LDF in 2016” highlighted governor of Nalaikh district Mr.Boldbaatar.

When asked why investing in children is a priority, Mr.Boldbaatar summarized in just few words “Because children are our future”.



Author: Enkhzul Altangerel, Digital Communications Consultant at UNICEF Mongolia

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