The international meeting of national directors and chairmen of boards of directors of associations of SOS Children’s Villages in West, Central and North Africa (WCNA), began on Monday in Hammamet, in the presence of representatives from 25 countries in Africa, Europe and Latin America. The Minister of the Family, Children and the Elderly, Amal Belhaj Moussa, said in a statement to TAP that Tunisia’s choice to host this three-day meeting illustrates the country’s outstanding experience in caring for children without family support and the interest shown by the state in the SOS Villages by allocating 7.5 million dinars in funding every three years. She explained that Tunisia’s approach to caring for children without support consists of institutional care, foster care and supporting families by strengthening the economic resilience of families with special needs through various economic empowerment programmes, which have benefited 1,300 Tunisian families this year with funding of around 14 million dinars. She added that the State’s support for children without family support is not limited to the SOS villages, but also extends to the integrated children’s centres, of which there are 22, in addition to the children’s complexes. These include 22 integrated children’s centres, which provide full board for 400 children, as well as the half-board system that provides children with school supplies, noting that 6,700 children benefited from this support during the new school year. Regarding the fight against early school leaving, Moussa said that his department had implemented an economic empowerment programme for mothers of pupils at risk of dropping out of school, which has so far benefited 1,000 mothers. In her opening speech, the Minister called on international organisations and large companies to assume their social responsibility towards children without family support and to support the State’s efforts to guarantee their protection. For her part, Angela Maria Rosales, Chief Program Officer (CPO) of SOS Children’s Villages International, stressed the importance of this meeting as an opportunity to deepen the debate on the most effective ways of caring for children without family support, particularly in the countries of the region, and to learn from successful experiences in the field of protecting children without support, including the Tunisian experience. President of the Tunisian Association of SOS Children’s Villages (ATVESOS), Mohamed Megdich, said that the Tunisian government began supporting the association three years ago, after German aid had been suspended almost 40 years ago. He said the government had called on Tunisians to help the association, which had enabled it to triple its budget from 4 to 12 million dinars and increase the number of beneficiaries from 900 to 2,500 children. He considered that Tunisia, with its successful experience in caring for children without family support, is capable of becoming a regional training platform in the field of child protection, pointing out that ATVESOS is working to set up a regional training centre in the village of Gammarth, the cost of which is estimated at 5.1 million euros, in addition to mobilising the financial resources needed to rebuild the village of Siliana, which is estimated at 5.2 million euros. The participants in this meeting will examine the possibilities of applying the strategy of the SOS Children’s Villages International up to 2030 at the level of the National Associations in the WCNA region, in addition to establishing an action plan aimed at creating loyal partnerships and improving governance and fundraising indices. At the meeting, participants will also discuss ways to enable National Associations to build fruitful relationships in their local environment, improve their positioning and consolidate their relationships with funding and support associations. Over the next three years, ATVESOS aims to increase its budget and the number of beneficiaries by 30% each year, given the large number of families in need of urgent intervention to help them continue to care for their children, and to equip the association’s staff with the necessary capacity to develop its intervention programmes, in particular to train and mentor young people in the villages to provide them with decent work and help them become self-sufficient.

Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse