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Breaking the cycle of child abuse in PNG

15 February 2022, Impact of Our Work

Naomi speaks up to keep children safe

Papua New Guinea has some of the highest rates of violence against children in the world. Cultural and social norms make child abuse an extremely sensitive subject that is almost never discussed. Naomi - a Positive Parenting Facilitator with Save the Children - is undeterred. She’s speaking up to break that stigma and protect the children in her community.
 
As a mother and a local leader, Naomi has always cared for the welfare of children. She says, “I am a woman leader in the community. I lead women in the village. I know hitting children and giving them plenty work is wrong.” However, when Save the Children visited her village talk about keeping children safe from all kinds of harm, Naomi knew she wanted to do more.
 
Naomi clearly remembers the first awareness raising session she attended on Parenting Without Violence. “I was so interested because I am seeing everything Save the Children is talking about, is happening in the village,” she recalls. “Deep down in my heart, I knew I was not doing enough as a woman leader, this is because I didn’t know all this information about child abuse, child rights,” she says. 
 


Naomi is a Positive Parenting Facilitator working to protect all children from harm in her village
Photo: Michael Amos/Save the Children PNG

Spreading the word

Determined to do more for her village, Naomi became a volunteer with Save the Children and attended 12 weeks of training about keeping children safe. She also learnt how to run an awareness raising session - just like the one she once attended herself. In her role as a positive parenting facilitator, Naomi now teaches other parents in her community about how to parent safely, identify the signs of child abuse and empower their children.  
 
Naomi says the training has given her the confidence to speak up. When Naomi used to talk about the risks of leaving young children home alone while parents went to work, people didn’t listen. “They tell me its none of my business to talk about their children and they need to do market to get money to send their children to school, so I just keep shut and observe only.”  
 
Today, Naomi is a respected authority on keeping children safe, having run positive parenting sessions for over four years. Naomi says she can see the effects of the training around her. “There is a lot of change in the village,” she says. “Especially mothers are talking nicely to their children and not shouting, fathers are more responsible going to the school with their children - this all happened after the PWV training. Children are confident talking with their parents and not like before,” she reflects.
 


The Safe Children Safe Communities program was supported by
the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP)
Photo: Robert McKechnie/ Save the Children Australia

Long-lasting, local change

The Safe Communities, Safe Children project supported 30 communities in PNG by implementing the Parenting Without Violence approach, one of Save the Children’s signature programs. This work was made possible with the support of the Australian government and the generosity of our individual supporters.
 
The program commenced in 2018 and ended in late 2021, but facilitators like Naomi continue to share what they learnt with the people around them. Over 72 Positive Parenting Facilitators were trained to prevent physical and humiliating punishment of children and improve positive parenting capacities of fathers, mothers, and caregivers.
 
Our research shows that the positive benefits Naomi has observed also hold true across all the communities we worked in. Of 471 of the parents surveyed by the project, 53% say they never use physical punishment in the home. That’s compared to 12% of parents four years ago, when the project first began - a huge improvement. We also recorded a 33% drop in parents who report using verbal or emotionally violent punishment against children.  
 
Naomi is happy to keep working with families in her village. “When I attended the PWV training, that really opened my eyes. She says. “Now, I know, where to go. I am very confident in myself and people come to me when a child is in need for help because they say, ‘Naomi went to school with Save the Children and she will help us.’”

Save the Children’s Safe Communities, Safe Children program was supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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