Tag Archive: child protection

Changing the role of a father in his family

A growing and overwhelming body of evidence confirms that engaged fatherhood is good for children, good for women and good for men themselves. But many fathers don’t know it.

In the majority of Sri Lankan families, cooking, feeding, washing, cleaning and of course, bringing up children is a woman’s responsibility. The man is little involved in the lives of his wife and children. The disengagement of men in the well-being of their families often paves the way to isolation, domestic violence and abuse.

“I used to think that bringing up my children and doing chores at home were my wife’s responsibility,” says Christopher, 31. “My wife would get up early in the morning, cook for the family and get the children ready for pre-school and daycare before she went for work; I would sleep through all of it, wake up late and go to work. After work I would go and play sports with my friends, and if I had some money, go for booze (alcohol) as well. None of us saw anything wrong in this lifestyle.”

Christopher with his wife and family.

Christopher’s wife Vijayakala didn’t see anything wrong in it either. It was normal and she just had to bear it.

Christopher comes from a community of tea estate labourers in the Central Hills of Sri Lanka where domestic violence is the highest (72%) in the country (World Health Organisation study). In his community, women plucked tea from morning till evening in any kind of weather while men worked in the factory only till 2:00 in the afternoon. The rest of the evening most got drunk. It added to the issue of domestic violence and abuse.

“I never listened to my wife’s opinion. So even over very small matters we argued a lot. I would even beat her sometimes. I was the boss,” Christopher says, “With my daughter, it was the same. She is four and if she asked for toys I would spank her.”

When World Vision began to work among tea estate communities, domestic violence and child abuse was identified as one of the biggest issues. Domestic violence is normalised and trivialised in Sri Lankan culture and even the women themselves believe it is normal. An old Sri Lankan Proverb says, “There are three things that can be beaten: a drum, a dog, and a woman.” And another – “Don’t let the outsiders know the fire inside your house” keeps victims silent. A survey conducted by an International Organisation in 2013 revealed that 58% of women agreed that ‘a woman should tolerate violence to keep the family together.’

Bringing awareness and empowering women alone wasn’t enough to solve the issue. It was important that both men and women were brought together to contribute to the solution.

World Vision, with the support of Promundo International, introduced the MenCare Project, which is designed to promote men’s involvement as caregivers in the lives of their partners and children. The sessions cover a variety of topics such as gender equality, family life, alcoholism, financial planning and child protection and development. A special session on family enrichment helps interaction between husbands and wives and helps them solve issues and start life again.

“The sessions changed my whole perspective on marriage and family,” smiles Christopher. “I started to share the chores at home – helping children get ready in the morning and doing laundry. I don’t argue anymore at home either. I have learnt to have conversations with my wife and my children without yelling or beating. I can see that it has changed my daughter from being afraid of me to being more relaxed around me. I didn’t know that being involved in their lives could be so rewarding.”

“Before the Project I used to allocate money from my salary for booze because I thought it was my right. But now I have stopped drinking and smoking completely,” he says. “Surprisingly it gives me more stamina to work. My wife and I plan our expenses for the month and we have been able to pay off all the debt, open savings accounts for the children and even buy a gas stove.”

After work, Christopher now spends most evenings with his wife and children. “I help my daughter with her crafts or any other work she’s brought from pre-school. Then I put on some music for her to dance to. She loves to dance,” he smiles.

Similar changes are evident in every father who took part in the MenCare Project. “They have developed the habit of saving and are more involved in the lives of their children,” says A Jeyaram, the Estate Manager of Ouvahkellei Estate where Christopher lives and works. “Domestic violence has started to disappear from their homes, alcoholism and smoking has significantly gone down among the workers of our Estate and productivity has increased by 25% compared to previous years.”

An evaluation conducted among the fathers (between 25 – 40 years) who participated in the Project indicated that  69% have reduced alcohol consumption, 66% support their partners in household activities and are engaged in the lives of their children,while 72% now prepare their monthly budget with their partner.

“But this change is not always easy,” says Christopher. “Some of my friends call me a sissy for helping my wife with house chores. They don’t understand why I don’t go drinking anymore.”

However, Christopher and the others from the Project have begun to share their knowledge with others in their community, becoming activists in preventing violence against women and children; they have already begun to see the changes.

“I can see some of them changing and I see the joy in their wives and children and even neighbours,” he says, “Every father should go through the MenCare Project.”

This story was featured on wvi.org

From child labourer to child rights advocate

By Klevisa Breshani, Communications Officer, World Vision Kosovo

Rafet, 14, a Roma child from Kosovo, used to think that working jobs for himself and his family, even physically demanding ones, was his duty as a child. He also thought that working was more important than going to school and earning money more important than an education. Rafet used to spend his days collecting plastics and transporting heavy loads to help his family.

His work not only robbed Rafet of his energy, it also prevented him from attending school. Participating in the awareness activities organised by the Local Initiatives for National Change (LINC), an 18-month project funded by World Vision Australia and implemented by World Vision and Health for All (a local partner) in Kosovo, helped Rafet understand his rights and change his mind. “I now help my parents around the house and go to school,” he says.

Today, not only is Rafet aware of his rights, he is also coaching many children in his community, helping them to understand their rights as well. Now, Rafet attends school regularly. His grades have improved and he is one of the most active children in the project’s initiatives. “I knew little about my rights before joining in the activities,” he recalls. “Here, I have learned that nobody should treat us violently, force us to beg on the street or work,” he says. “They [adults] have taught us so much about what we should do, and nothing about what to not to do,” he adds.

Before Refat started to attend school regularly, World Vision and the partner organisation held many awareness meetings with his parents, informing them that compulsory education is a right for every child.

Rafet walking in his neighbourhood

In the area where Rafet lives, a child was bitten by a street dog and lost his life while working to collect plastics and cans. “That made Rafet’s parents reflect,” says Orjana Demaliaj, World Vision’s LINC Project Officer. She adds: “Rafet’s father, an erector by occupation, is trying harder now to find a job  to help his family and save time for his children to attend school. Two of his oldest sons have emigrated to Germany and they are helping the family too,” she says.

Rafet is a member of one of six advocacy groups established over the past ten months in communes with the highest number of marginalised Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians. These groups typically lack information in regards to child rights and social protection services. Each group is comprised of 15 participants: children, youths as well as social protection workers and people with disabilities.

The project is focused on training groups in local advocacy techniques and strengthening them to raise their voices in order to influence child protection at the local level (with a special focus on vulnerable groups such as the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians, among others). The project is also helping members to influence implementation of social protection service policies so that they can push for enhanced social assistance schemes and reduce cases of child labour. The LINC project is working to reach 102 direct and 350 indirect beneficiaries, including children, community groups and centres for social protection workers.

After learning a lot in the training sections, Rafet is sharing his knowledge with his siblings and schoolmates in order to show them what their rights are. Rafet shares his personal experience with other children working improper jobs for their ages and motivates them to spread the knowledge gained during the training as much as possible.

“In my neighbourhood, I know many children who work. They go early in the morning and come home at night. There are many girls whose parents don’t allow them to go to school or play. Instead, they force them to work, collecting [plastics] or washing cars on the streets. I often see their parents shout at them. I think what is happening to those children is not right and I have to help them!” Rafet says.

He uses his time at school and with his acquaintances in his neighbourhood to share about child rights. “During the school break or even in the neighbourhood, my friends and I tell other children about what we have learned at the group and that we should not work, nobody should [treat] us violently or force us to beg on the streets,” Rafet says smiling.

Thanks to Rafet, his family have changed their mindsets. “My brothers and my sister rarely go to work since I told them that children under 18 should not work. Instead, they should go to school,” he says.

Recently, Rafet and his group have written a clause regarding child rights law which has been sent to the Kosovo parliament to approve. The clause says that no child should work! Instead, children should pursue compulsory education.

“I know how they feel and I don’t wish to see any child working in poor conditions. Even though children are little, they should be respected and protected from adults!” he states.

Rafet wants to become a doctor when he grows up and heal the ill, especially children.

This story was adapted from an article at wvi.org

Mamita says no to child marriage

By Barun Bajracharya, Content Manager, World Vision International Nepal

18-year-old Mamita is from Lamjung in the western region of Nepal. Her mother fixed her marriage when she was 15.

 

18-year-old Mamita dreams of becoming a nurse and helping the marginalised. Mamita lived with her family of six in Lamjung. Her father was working as a labourer in Saudi Arabia. Due to a lack of good employment opportunities in Nepal, it is common for people with limited or no educational qualifications to go to the Middle East and other countries to work as labourers.

But at the age of 15, Mamita confronted the biggest obstacle of her life, a decision that would alter her future.

A marriage proposal came knocking on Mamita’s family door. Thinking they had found a good match, her relatives brought a marriage proposal intended for her sister. The climate of festivities quickly turned to one of panic when her sister eloped, leaving the family in a compromising position. The news of the elopement had started marring the image of the family within their community. Something needed to be done to save the family from losing respect.

Societal ridicule and an inability to provide for her children drove her mother, Nirmala, to arrive at a precarious decision. Fearing the possibility of her other daughter following in the footsteps of her sister, Nirmala offered 15-year-old Mamita as a substitute bride. Oblivious to the adverse consequences of child marriage, uneducated Nirmala followed the traditional custom, thinking it was perfectly normal to offer Mamita as a fair alternate option.

According to the 2014 UNICEF report, Ending Child Marriage, almost half of all child brides worldwide live in South Asia. Nepal is one of the 10 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage. 52% of women aged 20 to 49 years were married or in union before ages 15 and 18.

Nirmala left no room for discussion on the matter and expected Mamita to graciously accept the marriage proposal. Crippled with fear, Mamita could not say anything to her mother but within her heart she knew that she did not want to marry early. Knowing that the situation was beyond her, she sought help from the members of her school’s child club, which was supported by World Vision.

“When I first heard about the news of my marriage I could not comprehend what was happening. I knew that I was too young for marriage and I wanted to study further and become a nurse. I was just 15. It made me sad and depressed and out of fear I could not say anything to my mother.”

“I knew there was a child club in my school and they worked on child protection issues. I thought they might be able to help me, counsel me and find a way out. That was my only hope. I was desperate to get any help,” says Mamita.

Despite the fear brewing within her, Mamita took the bold step of reaching out for that help. She approached the children’s club and talked to them about her predicament. After getting the assurance that all measures would be taken to protect her rights as a child, Mamita sighed a sigh of relief. The children’s club sought the support of local authorities and attempted to counsel Mamita’s mother on the issue of child marriage. Mamita had finally found her ray of hope.

As part of an awareness programme, school child clubs receive an orientation from World Vision on child protection issues, such as child marriage, child labour, and child abuse.

School child clubs also work for school issues such as cleanliness, attendance, studies, extracurricular activities, awareness programmes, street dramas and more. They learn that child marriage is illegal and that boys and girls are not mature enough to get married before the age of 20. The child club members are also trained by World Vision on who to contact when child protection issues are raised.

They first contact concerned authorities such as the District Child Welfare Board and the Village Child Protection and Promotion Committee to report a proposed child marriage. The child club members also directly talk with the authorities, coordinating a fixed time and date to meet the family of the proposed bride or groom and advise them.

This story was first featured on wvi.org