Colombia: How safety and protection is improving for girls because of sponsorship

Interested to know how sponsorship has improved children’s safety? Monalisa shares her experiences seeing initiatives that make children more aware of their rights and how to speak up to strengthen child protective systems for their future.

 

By Monalisa Michielin, World Vision’s Portfolio Advisor

Since World Vision started implementing working with the community in the Camino hacia la Esperanza project; there have been a lot of changes, and I’m excited to share them with you.

I’ve witnessed changes in how the children and their families live now in terms of their hygiene, nutrition, health in general, protection, and water and sanitation.

Most importantly, the people in the community believe and trust that everything we want to achieve is for them.

It’s now safer for kids to go to school, World Vision are keeping the kids at school, the children are more aware of bullying, they’re more aware of all aspects of child abuse. This is due to the work your sponsorship is supporting.

Developing healthy habits

In one school I visited recently, World Vision used the nutrition centre nearby to provide lunch. As soon as the children entered they had to wash their hands, they know where to sit, they know how to behave … after they finish they have to help the assistant wash their plates.

We are involved in the strengthening of child protective systems; which is in trying to make the community know how to report issues and crimes. So if there is an issue happening in the community, they know where to go.

And now instead of just one child walking to school, a group of children walk to school together; World Vision initiated these systems, which are based in each school and each community.

 

In this way, World Vision address hygiene practices and good nutrition; then children go home and apply that – it’s changing the way they see things and they end up teaching their parents too.

 

The training starts from the beginning: what is the meaning of “abuse”?

What is child protection? If you ask a few people that have not been educated on their rights and about child abuse issues, they think that child protection is about having a fence so the cows or any animals do not cross or enter a school where children are; it could be the roof having a big hole – going into more of the physical infrastructure. So through our training, they are now more aware of the issues.

 

 

Identifying who are the victims and the perpetrators

Child protection can be a complex issue in a community. Sometimes the perpetrators are in the school, or the perpetrators are at home, so it’s about tackling domestic violence. Not only is the community being trained in the meaning of protection first and ways to assess this, but they are also learning how to report.

Some schools now have latrines (toilets) nearby – previously they used to be far away, which was unsafe for girls.

Even to collect water was unsafe – so now children go in pairs or they go with an adult or sometimes they ask for the wells to be based near or inside the school.

 

 

We try to involve the girls as much as possible, as they are most at risk, as well as partnering with the department of education, the department of health, and social justice. We try to involve everyone in the training so they are aware of what we’re doing and what’s going on and how to resolve these issues, these barriers that were making life unsafe.

 

We even involve the police in the training, so that at the end, the community feel more protected; they know that at least they were there and they are aware of the issues.

World Vision is working in prevention and improvement of the reporting system and when the staff are alerted to a situation, they refer it on to the police.

Children are safer because of the work you are supporting

What I have seen in the schools has been very encouraging; less bullying and less sexual assault from the teachers. This is also because the students are creating their own committees.

In some schools they have one representative per class. Anything that happens, any incident, it’s anonymously put in a box. At the end of the week, that box is opened by an adult representative and they try to address the issue, they even try to bring the parents to school.

From building up a safer school environment, to challenging the previous ideas of protection and strengthening the community’s reporting system – slowly but surely, World Vision is building momentum in these projects and improving the safety of children.

Share this story