Issue - July 2008

July 2008

In this month's issue Hanna Redknap interview a volunteer teaching Children rights at school as well she visited Inti Wara Yassi Community; Perry King put in the picture Eva Biard's work at Ciudadela SEDEGES; finally Walter Sánchez with Family more...

July 2008

Claudia Malfatti

Coming to Bolivia to work as a volunteer, and staying in Cochabamba, she has worked at the Defensoría de la Niñez y Adolecencia, and teaching children about their rights in a school in Tiquipaya. The project helped her write her thesis for her studies in psychology in Italy, in which she is focusing on children’s development and the impact that children’s rights and self-awareness has on development.

Hanna Redknap
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Ripley - United Kingdom

Cocha-banner: Why did you decide to work in Bolivia?

Claudia Malfatti: It was fate! I needed to go abroad to work on my thesis and originally I wanted to go to Sierra Leone, but it was not possible through my university, so I looked on the internet and found Projects Abroad. I wrote to them and told them my ideas and they wrote back and told me there was a possibility for me to work in either Bolivia or Somalia, but again, I could not go to Somalia for the same reasons I could not go to Sierra Leone so that is why I came to Bolivia. I did not really choose the country, I chose the project but I am really happy that I came here. In Italy I worked with a teacher who worked with children’s rights, particularly children that have immigrated to Italy alone. I would really like her job, so what I am learning here is really useful tome.

CB: How is the work you are doing here linked with your Graduate stud ies in Italy?

CM: The project I am doing in the college will be the subject of my thesis. It is about the importance of respecting children’s rights for the development of the children, psychological development. If the rights are respected the children can develop better. This is the theory section. The next section is about the project I am working on with the children here.

CB: What is your project?

CM: Well, after I spent one month in the Defensoría working withthe lawyer, the psychologist and social worker, I saw that a lot of people do not know their rights and the lawyer and I decided to work with the college to teach children about their rights.

It is really for young adults; there are two groups, the younger age group is for children who are 11-13 years old, and the older group is for teenagers aged 16-20 years old, it is a wider age range because some have to repeat the year. There are six lessons for each class; I try to follow what the children like more so if they are more interested in certain topics then we can spend more time on it. The first two lessons are about children’s rights and after that I teach them about women’s rights. I speak to them about interfamilial relations, violence between fathers and mothers and violence between parents and children. There are lessons in sexual education, contraception and sexual diseases; I also give them biology lesson about the body and adolescence.

It is obvious they have never been told anything about this before, and they really need to have sexual education, as they ask questions such as whether it is possible to be pregnant just by kissing. It seems quite late to have sexual education at 16, but I was told by the lawyer that a lot of people think that if children learnt about sex any earlier it is encouraging them to have sex.

At the end of the project I have an evaluation lesson where I give them a questionnaire about how they have found my classes. I also ask about abuse and whether they are abused a home or at school. The questionnaires are anonymous but there is a number on them so only I know who they are and then I can take any serious cases to the Defensoría and then they can do their work. I keep in contact with the psychologist at the Defensoría, and I give her all the information that the children give me so that she can organize workshops, or a new project, with a more specific focus. The project I am doing is only general, so that we can find out which children need more specific help.

CB: Are there many children that are abused?

CM: I am teaching 118 children and there are about 20 that are abused. But it is difficult because they are adolescent, and it is a difficult age so you do not know if just because their parents go out at night they think they are being mistreated. I think that 5 are being badly abused.

CB: Do you think alcohol is linked to the family problems here?

CM: To me, alcohol is just an excuse. If the parents are drunk then there are other underlying problems. Alcohol is a problem because it makes people more violent but the problem is why does this father or mother drink? Here it is normal to drink and get drunk, it is normal for a man to hit his wife or children so it is therefore a cultural problem. Children have no problem saying that their father comes home drunk every night, and because they have no problem saying it this makes me believe that the children just accep it as normal. A lot of children write that theyare abused when their father comes home drunk. A lot of men believe that his wife and children are his property, so they are very controlling which can lead to violence, especially if he is drunk.

I try to explain to the children it is not just a problem in their family, but it is a common problem in society. If you know that there is violence in a family and you do not tell anyone then it makes you responsible too, especially when children are involved because they cannot defend themselves.

CB: Are you teaching them about physical mistreatment or psychological mistreatment or both?

CM: I speak about violent abuse, sexual abuse and psychological abuse and tell the children what they can do to get help, such as speakingwith their teacher. I explain that violence is circular so it is difficult to interrupt it so I tell them how the circle is made and how it can be broken.

CB: Do you have the chance to work with women and teach them about their rights?

CM: I speak to the girls in the classes and I think women are really changing in Bolivia, girls are really different from their mothers and there is a really big gap between what the mothers wanted and what their daughters think and want now. The mothers just wanted to marry and have children, now the daughters have different dreams, they are more cautious about marriage and do not want the same live as their mothers. In the first lesson I ask the children what they would like to do with their lives and what are their dreams, they say they do not want to be like their parents, they want to travel, study and go to university. They have big dreams. They still want to be married but after they have studied, and they want to have a marriage filled with love, without violence and without alcohol.

CB: Do you feel like they understand what you are teaching them?

CM: They have had some lessons about rights before so they do have a general idea but I want them to understand that having rights is part of life. I think they understand as afterwards they can write lists of what their rights are and they seem interested. I have also asked them to write a poem or a story about what they have learnt, so th they can be creative and show their own ideas. One question on my questionnaire is: “What do you think about my lesson, what do you like and not like?” They tell me that they like the lessons about women’s rights and sexual education; they like that there is interaction in my lessons and they can ask questions. When the other teachers have lessons they speak t the children for one hour and that is it. It was difficult for them at first to interact but they have got much more used to it.

CB: Finally, have you learnt anything about the children?

CM: I learnt to teach! A lot of them are really strong, much stronger than I was at that age. Many of the children come from a broken home and some do not even have a proper family.

However, they still go to school; even though some live alone with little brothers and sisters they all go to school every morning. If I did not have my parents then I do not think I would have gone to school. The college I work in is a public college, so a lot of children come from the countryside and their families do not speak Spanish, so it is very hard for them to come to school, speak Spanish, go home and speak Quechua.

They do not know a lot of things children in other countries would at their age, for example at 16 they do not even know how a child is born; but they know different things, such as how to live alone and a lot of other adult things. When I ask the children what they want to do in their lives some of them just write that they want to be a good Bolivian citizen They want to help their parents to buy a house and look after their younger brothers and sisters. A girl of 16 wrote that she wanted to save money so that her little brother could go to school. It is amazing how responsible they are at such a young age. A lot of them have a lot of dreams but they are frustrated because they know they probably will never be able to achieve them. It makes them stronger, they do not usually cry as they know this is the reality and we have to work with it.

The work of one woman and the Ciudadela SEDEGES Orphanage

It is the responsibility of every child care facility to make the most of their resources and provide a chance and opportunity for every child that relies on its services. Located along Avenida Blanco Galindo, Ciudadela SEDEGES is no different. But when one gets to the nuts and bolts of how this child care got to where it is today, one can say they have been quite lucky. But very thankful...

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