Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Preventing child neglect and exploitation through family development sessions

By: Astrid Gonzaga Dionisio, Child Protection Specialist

Yogyakarta, June 2014 - When I attended a discussion on child protection in Yogyakarta recently, one of the participants really stood out.

Ibu Prihatin is a mother of three and a graduate of junior high school from Kulon Progo District. She understands very well what is needed to provide her children with all the support they need to succeed in school – and she loves to talk about it.

“We have to make sure they have breakfast in the morning and that their uniforms are clean and in order,” she said when participants were asked to discuss how to prevent neglect.

Ibu Prihatin has been participating in the Family Hope Programme (PKH - Program Keluarga Harapan) since 2008. Through the programme, the Indonesian government provides conditional cash transfers to the poorest families to improve their access to health and education services.

One of the conditions is that family members attend these kind of family development sessions to better understand the impact of child neglect and how to prevent it.  They also learn about the risks of exploitation, be it for labour or even worse for prostitution.

Ibu Prihatin read out result from group discussion on what needs to be done to prevent child neglect.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Astrid Dionisio

Children have a right to basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter and education. And they have a right to be protected from all forms of exploitation and abuse. However, parents are often not aware of the risks and the impact of neglect and exploitation.

Ibu Prihatin said this was the first time she had heard such subjects discussed.

“The topics are interesting,” she said. “I have learned many things that will help me bring up and nurture my children better, so they can succeed in their education and are prepared for their later life.”

She hopes the family development sessions will help prevent child neglect and exploitation in the community and she wants to support her three children to attain higher education.

Apart from the child protection modules, beneficiaries of the PKH programme must also attend sessions that focus on education, health and nutrition as well as economic empowerment.

UNICEF has helped to develop these sessions. The discussion I attended, on child protection, was a field test to see how much the participants learned about the subject.

In future, family development sessions will be run by the PKH facilitators.

One of them is Sapti Puji Rahayu who was recruited in 2008 for Kulon Progo district, covering 180 beneficiary households.

Sapti Puji Rahayu, PKH Facilitator in Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Astrid Dionisio

Sapti ran the fielding testing session that I attended.  

She said discussing all topics on violence, exploitation and neglect were relevant and important for protecting children.

“I have found such cases in our community, and children are suffering,” she said. “It is important that parents are aware of the risks and the consequences.”

Sapti says she found some children in the community who were working instead of going to school. Others dropped out of classes because their parents weren’t making sure they attended.

Sapti has enjoyed working with vulnerable members of the community. “My most memorable experience was my success in helping a family to obtain their civil registration documents including birth registration for their children so they could access education and other services.” 

Sapti Puji Rahayu (standing) facilitates the discussions with PKH beneficiaries.
© UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Astrid Dionisio

After seeing the family development session in action, I feel optimistic. The group was open to talking about sensitive issues like child exploitation and neglect. Changing this will take time, but the sessions definitely make a difference and I am proud that we at UNICEF can help make them as effective as possible.

We need more Saptis who are willing to listen, work and stay in the community to create change for the most vulnerable groups, especially children.