The practice of children’s participation

The practice of children’s participation

This workshop offers a critical reflection on the practice of children’s participation in a five-year programme to combat the worst forms of child labour in Nepal and Bangladesh. In a dialogue between theory and practice, speakers share what they have had to learn (and unlearn) to work effectively with children.

Credit: Anish Bastola.

The CLARISSA (Child Labour: Action-Research-Innovation in South and South-Eastern Asia) programme was a five-year action-research consortium that generated innovative, evidence-based solutions to prevent hazardous and abusive child labour in Bangladesh and Nepal. The programme had a participatory, child-centred approach that supported children to collect evidence, analyse it themselves and develop solutions to the problems they identified.

Yet definitions of child centrality often fail to reflect the complex negotiations around children’s participation in practice – where facilitators must balance children’s interests, resources, protection and donor priorities.

The Rejuvenate Project’s recent working paper, “Participation For, With, and By Girls: Evidencing Impact,” suggests that while substantive participation may not always be appropriate (due to, for example, budget, time, or ethical concerns), where possible, fully involving girls in the design, implementation, and evaluation can significantly increase the value of each of these stages of a program—contributing to, among other things: increased complexity and nuance in measurement; consideration of the negative externalities of participation; more context-sensitive and tailored programming; and greater attention to intersectional marginalities.

The evaluation of the CLARISSA programme’s action research groups with children highlighted the importance of trust in the functioning and success of these groups and the essential role of participatory facilitators in building trust.

In this seminar, we critically reflect on the practice of a child-led approach – examining its benefits and challenges – through a conversation between the CLARISSA and REJUEVANTE projects. Two of CLARISSA’s participatory facilitators, Kriti Bhattarai and Sayma Sayed, and a member of the programme evaluation team, Mieke Snijder, share their answers to questions such as:

  • What was the practice of children’s participation like in the CLARISSA program? How was it different from what was planned/imagined?
  • What have you learned about being child-centered over the five years of the CLARISSA program?
  • What skills have you had to develop and strengthen to work with children?
  • Which of your previous practices did you have to unlearn?


  • Kriti Bhattarai, Senior Program Manager, Voice of Children, Nepal
  • Sayma Sayed, Director (Operations Monitoring and Research) at Grambangla Unnayan Committee, Dhaka
  • Mieke Snijder, researcher at the Institute for Development Studies


Mariah Cannon, Institute for Development Studies

How to watch

You can watch this on Zoom.

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