Breaking the Cycle of Violence
The dignity of children and their right to live free from violence and fear remains a key priority on the international development agenda. However, for many children, the threat of violence is still a daily reality, even more so in vulnerable communities such as Huaycán in Peru.
Huaycán is located in the district of Ate, approximately 16 kilometres east of the capital Lima. It is home to thousands of migrant families, many of whom live in slum-like conditions and face daily hunger, economic hardship, and preventable disease.
Like many similar communities, Huaycán experiences a high rate of violence against children, with most perpetrators being trusted adults within a child’s family, society, or school. Government child protection services acknowledge the issue but are understaffed and unable to guarantee the right to protection for local children.
Designed and managed by the Loreto Sisters in Peru, the Child Rights Community Education project supported by MWIA focuses on two main areas: preventing violence against children through education, and accessing care and recovery services for those who do experience violence.
Staff at the school where the project is being delivered have already taken ownership of the initiative and feel great pride in being part of this vital work. With the project team led by Sr Miroslava Santillan, the teachers have incorporated new educational modules into the school curriculum aimed at strengthening each child’s sense of identity and self-worth. Classes are currently being delivered to more than 60 students aged between 9 and 11 and take place during school hours to ensure they are accessible to all.
The new modules were designed by health workers specialising in preventing family and sexual violence against children. The modules use a rights-based and gender approach and consider the participants’ age and cultural and socio-emotional needs. Each session focuses on a particular topic: identity, coexistence, communication, decision-making, self-esteem, and emotions. Two final sessions specifically address the prevention of sexual abuse and how to ask for help from trusted adults.
The project team has trained school staff to identify potential cases of violence against children and how to assist those who need protection. At the community level, support networks have been established with government organisations, local health centres and community hubs when access to care and recovery for a child is required.
The many parenting workshops already conducted have proved incredibly successful and shown that most want to strengthen their parenting skills, learn about positive discipline, and better understand the rights of all children. It also became evident that many parents were unaware of the developmental impacts of violence. Sadly, in some cases, these sessions identified violence against children and required intervention.
Vital projects such as these fulfil the mission of Mary Ward International Australia and further work towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 16, which calls for the elimination of abuse, exploitation, trafficking and any other forms of violence against children.
We hope that through the work of the Loreto Sisters, this project will continue to protect the lives and well-being of children in Huaycán, reduce social tolerance for violence and promote community-wide awareness of these issues.
My son’s father has two reports of domestic abuse. My son has seen all the abuse that his father used to give me… I know that we have caused a lot of harm to my son, but his father doesn’t care, he carries on the same way.”
Ana*, mother of a grade 4 student, speaking to the project team after attending a parenting workshop.
BACKGROUND: Ana had previously taken out a court order against her husband and, along with her children, was receiving psychological therapy; however, they stopped attending during the pandemic when many mental health services were restricted.
OUTCOME: Through this project, Ana received personalised guidance and individual counselling about the impact of violence on her children’s physical and emotional health and has committed to resuming therapy.
* Name changed to protect the mother’s identity.
Author: Kirstin DelBeato, Projects & Partnerships Manager, MWIA
Feature Image: Students and staff during the Child Rights Community Education workshops