We need you! Support the DCI Social-Legal Defence Centres throughout its Grassroots National Sections
DEFENCE FOR CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL(DCI) is a leading child rights-focused and membership-based grassroots movement founded in 1979. Our movement’s ethos is to work in a transparent, sustainable and socially transformative way.
is to promote the individual and collective human rights of children
at local, national, regional and international levels.
Our vision is that children can pursue a life in which they can enjoy their human rights with dignity, in a just and responsible society. This is not yet a reality for all children and we support children who face barriers in having their rights respected.
Justice and child protection systems are not always adapted to the needs of children. Children who are victims of or witnesses to any form of violence, children in conflict with the law, children in migration or children who face an often combination of challenges, for example a child in migration who is a victim of trafficking, need support to access the justice and child protection systems, to be heard, to have all their rights recognised and to obtain remedies. An example of a successful tried and tested and very practical DCI model to do this is our Socio-Legal Defence Centres, or SLDCs. They provide grassroots supports for children (e.g., legal aid and advice, direct contacts and advocacy with the justice and child protection systems, initiating legal challenges for the child, psychosocial and psychological support for children, a child-centred and holistic approach to addressing the child’s needs, and evidence-based advocacy). The individual cases that the centres work on inform evidence-based advocacy to drive progress in designing and implementing structural changes on two distinct levels: 1) at local, national and regional levels via the National Section and, 2) at international level via the Geneva-based International Secretariat of DCI (DCI-IS).
1. Ensure access to justice: SLDCs bridge the gap between children and the legal system, ensuring better access to justice and promoting their right to be heard in all matters concerning their rights and well-being.
2. Provide child-centered services: SLDC specialised staff provide legal, social and psychological services and referrals to more specialised services where needed, enabling children to heal from trauma and rebuild their lives.
3. Awareness-raising and empowerment: SLDCs also help to educate children on their rights, further empowering them to advocate for themselves and others. SLDCs also raise awareness at local (e.g., in communities), regional and national levels.
4. Advocacy and accountability: By monitoring and reporting on child rights violations, SLDCs contribute essential data to international human rights mechanisms (e.g. UNCRC, UNHRC), driving evidence-based advocacy. They use their in-depth knowledge of children’s rights to influence public policy and hold governments accountable for their legal obligations to protect children’s rights.
5. Structural changes towards better respect for child rights: The SLDCs help to detect and identify systemic child rights violations and to promote structural changes needed to legislation, policy and procedures, to respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), its protocols and general comments.
Some snapshots from anonymised individual cases dealt with by DCI-SLDCs:
A complex case of a family in the Middle East with an unregistered marriage and four stateless children. The father was imprisoned for monetary debt and the mother worked for minimum income. The children faced social and educational barriers and have been receiving psycho-social support through the local SLDC. The DCI lawyer initiated a challenging lawsuit to register the marriage and then the children.
“Our family’s life has taken a positive turn. The organisation has been our guiding light, helping us navigate through complex legal challenges and providing us with the precious gifts of education and healthcare. Though obstacles still exist, your support has given us hope for a better future for me and my siblings.” said the 14-year-old son.
A mother and five-year-old child fleeing persecution in their home country were separated on arrival in Europe and the child was placed in care, even after a DNA test proved they were mother and daughter. DCI supported the mother, helped her find accommodation (a requirement for reunification), liaised with the reception authorities, found the alternative care centre where the child was, advocated towards the national authorities to ensure the mother and child were reunited, and supported the mother for her asylum interview. Mother and child are now safe and well and able to plan for their future.
“The system must change because it is really bad. They must not separate a child from her mother.” said the mother.
A young girl in Africa called DCI SLDC to report abuse. The SLDC team (lawyers, psychologists, social workers) supported the girl towards recovery from the trauma of the abuse, to report the abuse, have a case brought to court, and ensure conviction of the perpetrator. This girl’s case has encouraged others to claim their rights.
“Access to justice is a way of levelling the playing field between the poor and the marginalized, and the rich and the powerful. My daughter can finally sleep at night because justice has been served,” said the mother.
Why support DCI?
The DCI model of grassroots National Sections and headquarters in Geneva has been tried and tested over 44 years. It is a valuable model for the defence of children’s rights. Your support for DCI in Geneva will help it to fulfil its advocacy mission at international level, and to help fund the expansion of SLDCs at grassroots level. Your donation will allow DCI to make a difference to more children’s lives.