12 Years of Community-based Child-Friendly Services
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Child-friendly spaces provide children with a safe place to play, learn and develop in their communities. They have been used widely since 1999 to support children’s well-being during emergencies. They provide a safe space with supervised activities, raise awareness of the risks to children, and mobilize communities to create a protective environment in many countries around the world. In China, child-friendly spaces were first established by UNICEF and the government to provide child protection and other services after the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008.
In recognition of the potential of the child-friendly spaces to reach vulnerable children, the Government of China — in the latest National Plan of Action for Children’s Development (2011–2020) — called for the provision of one Children’s Place (the Chinese version of the child-friendly space) in 90 per cent of all urban and rural communities. From 2012 to 2020, the Government of China and UNICEF began establishing them in development (i.e. non-emergency) settings. Since 2016, UNICEF’s work has also expanded from supporting the operation of child-friendly spaces to supporting their replication. From 2017-2020 UNICEF China and the Office of the National Working Committee on Children and Women trained over 400 staff and 1,000 volunteers from 120 child-friendly spaces through provincial technical support hubs. A network of community workers has been formed to provide grassroots services to children. paving the “last mile” road of grassroots children’s service delivery.
From 40 child-friendly spaces in Sichuan, the model is now replicated in urban and rural communities across China. By the end of 2019, a total of 289,000 Children’s Places had been established across the country to serve hundreds of thousands of children and their families, contributing to the realization and protection of children’s rights to survival, development, protection and participation.
12 years of Child Friendly Space programme coincided with a critical period of child protection service development in China, when community-based child protection services and system building took shape and grassroots children’s services were established While we celebrate and commemorate the development of child-friendly spaces, we are also campaigning for universal child-friendly community services to deliver child development, protection and participation services in China.