By Irene Koernia Arifajar, World Vision Indonesia
Equipping local leaders
“We protect our children and educate our people about child protection. The last man we found abusing our children has been sent to jail for 15 years,” said Mr Babys, 54, the leader of the child protection committee of Kelle community in Indonesia.
Kelle is just one example of villages in Indonesia that have become increasingly aware of child protection thanks to a Child Protection and Advocacy Project which commenced in 2013 with funding from the Australian government.
The child protection committee members are the key to the project. They educate their community on child rights and child protection policies, monitor the wellbeing of local children and link survivors to local services.
Changing community attitudes
A few years ago, child protection was not a serious concern for people here. The remote location, poverty and low education levels have all contributed to high rates of child abuse. Corporal punishment was seen as not only inevitably normal, but necessary for disciplining children at school and in the home. Children who dropped out of school were more vulnerable to child labour or early marriage with a higher risk of violence and abuse.
When such violence or abuse was done by people outside of the family, parents and adults preferred not to take responsibility for reporting and acting on behalf of children, simply to avoid trouble. There was a fear of retaliation from perpetrators, judgement from society and other family members. Mr Babys recalled that abused children never received assistance.
“There was no attention for their feelings and traumatic experience. Family hides the issue because it’s embarrassing,” he explains.
Empowering communities to protect children
Joining the project run by World Vision Indonesia, Mr Babys and his friends started their efforts to change the situation. The Child Protection and Advocacy Project model addresses child protection more holistically, focusing on prevention and empowering the community to protect their children from violence within their families and communities.
This involves working with every level of the community – from directly empowering children and parents with information and training, to partnering with child protection service providers, community structures and the government to build and strengthen systems that protect children and support survivors of violence.
There are a total of 231 child protection committee members like Mr Babys working across 13 villages, who reach more than 400,000 children and 800,000 adults. And they’re making a difference – 74 percent of parents say they now understand the rights of children. More parents state they would report a suspected case of child abuse or violence and know how to do so. Local officials say that more cases are making it through to law enforcement and onwards to prosecution in court. This positive change will only keep increasing as committees continue doing good work with support from the village government.
Through the Child Protection and Advocacy Project, World Vision Indonesia has empowered communities to provide protection for their children. This effort has been acknowledged as a new best practice of development work by the National Bureau for Development and Planning and the Province Planning Bureau. These appreciations are the hope and reminder that this work needs to be continued, replicated and scaled up to reach more children in Indonesia.