“In the community we guarantee that child abuse will never happen here again,” says member of Child Protection Group in Myanmar
Children are shouting everywhere around us. They are playing and some of them are curiously observing who is coming to visit their community kindergarten. We are in Oak Sat ward in the North of Mandalay city in central Myanmar. Attending the meeting are members of the Child Protection Group in their yellow T-shirts, community representatives and the most curious small boy from time to time.
Oak Sat Child Protection Group (CPG) was established in April 2016 by People in Need within its European Union and Czech Development Agency funded project. Each month they are meeting 200 families to explain to parents and caregivers about child rights, Myanmar child law and how to recognize child abuse in the village and what to do with it. CPG members are trained in how to respond if child protection issues occur in the community.
Wutye Win Naing (29) is one of nine CPG members. “Before our group was formed cases of child abuse occurred. I felt frustrated but I could not do anything. The cases were solved by extort or bribesand the vulnerable people were oppressed,” says the mother of a four-year old daughter. “When the group was formed we attended trainings. Now I know how to identify the cases and what kind of helps the child will need. I am even able to link the child to a free of charge lawyer,” adds Wutye.
Child protection group members are changing neighbors’ behavior
Every CPG member has defined role and responsibilities in the group. Wutye is in charge of the auditing of small grants. “Besides that I am also accompanying two child victims to the court and provide them with support. We can for example cover the transportation costs. Others are working with the families,” she explains. The core of the work is mainly the awareness and changing mindsets of people in the closest neighborhoods. "One of my neighbors beat her child every day. Once the mother realized that I am a CPG member, she stopped beating her child at least in front of me. Most of the community members are relying on CPG members because they know that CPGs are really helping children," says Wutye.
For less serious cases CPGs can provide some financial support, but the most difficult cases are not solved yet. "Once we identify more complicated cases we meet with the family and ask them if they want the help of a CPG. Later we organize a CPG meeting and discuss how to help the family. Once there is a need of legal help to the family, we refer the case to a lawyer and coordinate together. We are for example collecting documentation for evidence," Wutye describes and adds that they are now assisting in two cases which are not finished yet. "One year ago, an abuser was a monk and the child was 4-years old. A bribe was used in this case therefore we are losing the case. The monk will go to jail just for two years, it should not be like that. The other case is about an attempt to abuse a child," she says.
Help even for most complicated cases
The biggest advantage of People in Need’s project funded by EU is clear to Wutye. “Other similar actions just support the children development. They do not reflect the cases once the child is abused. They do not get in touch with lawyers or go to the court. They are responsible for rehabilitation or social support. For us it is a very good experience to have a chance to deal with these kind of cases,” she says.
Even though the hard cases have not been solved yet, the CPG members can see some success. “We are perceived as very reliable. There was never this kind of support for communities. For the people, our work is kind of a guarantee that child abuse will never happen in the community again," says Wutye.
People in Need’s project has established CPGs in 30 communities and 30 monastic schools in 3 Regions of Myanmar. The CPGs are made of 15 to 30 community volunteers whose main role is to raise awareness about child protection in the community and the monastic school and manage child protection cases when they are revealed. Reporting severe cases to township authorities, covering costs related to case management and resolving the less serious cases on the spot belong among the main tasks of the group members. In addition, CPG creates and promotes child protection policy for their village, which describes what to do when children are at risk. The project is also raising awareness about child protection cases among the relevant township level authorities who should be, according to local child law, responsible for resolving them.
People in Need see children of Myanmar as the future of the country. This is why their protection in all communities is essential. "Child protection is very necessary for this community and it has great results, so I expect that the knowledge will be handed over to our successors and younger generation," says Wutye, adding that the project contributed also to her personal life. "I have a small daughter. Now I know how to protect my child, provide her psychological help and where to complain if she face abuse,”. Wutye states that the biggest contribution is the service for the community and safe surrounding for children.