VMM’s Safeguarding and Positive Discipline Programmes and Volunteers in Africa
VMM’s Safeguarding and Protection Programme for Children and Vulnerable Adults has been making great strides in protecting the lives of children and vulnerable persons in East Africa, where human trafficking and cases of abuse occur and corporal punishment persists. The Safeguarding and Positive Discipline Programmes make real changes in nurturing their happiness and safety and positively influencing teachers, parents and the community at large on the rights of children and vulnerable adults.
Safeguarding Programme Manager, Lucy Monari, and Positive Discipline Programme volunteers, Eilís McDonald, Marie Walsh and Margaret Fitzpatrick, have been successfully spreading the safeguarding and positive discipline message and methods through our partner organisations, by establishing and monitoring safeguarding policies and procedures, mentoring teachers, parents and children and through outreach activities in the community.
The Positive Discipline Message Through Radio Plays Proves Popular
Within many communities, there can persist a culture of beating to instill respect and believing that it brings about the best academic results in the child. Therefore, parents, on first encounter, may fear that the VMM ‘Positive Discipline’ Programme implies an implication of child ‘neglect’ and, initially, some can be wary of engaging with the programme. Many parents may not be aware of its encouraging and inclusive methodology, positive benefits for the children and the alternative methods of discipline which are offered. Once they understand this, the team and the positive discipline approach are warmly welcomed and even sought after.
Radio Kamwenge and Voice of Tooro, with a listenership of over 2 million people, broadcast positive discipline plays weekly in Western Uganda; and Radio Mitume in Kitale, Kenya, has a weekly session on child rights prepared by the diocesan Child Protection Officer.
The radio-plays, with the studio and call-in discussions which follow, focus on children and ‘girls’/womens’ rights and the role of men and fathers in protection, love, forgiveness and reconciliation, to foster a participatory approach to building a violence-free community. The plays, telling the stories and experiences of real people, followed by phone-in callers relating their own stories, have proven to be a successful method of outreach, spreading the concept of a positive discipline approach toward children and vulnerable adults into the broader community.
The Medium and Relevance of Radio Plays Prove Effective
Most parents can remember the harsh treatment that they received in school, as the go-to remedy for correcting mistakes. The radio plays effectively demonstrate to an avid listenership, how the characters benefit from a change in the behaviour and actions toward them. This personal relevance acts as an empathic broker of the topic for reconciliation with the listeners’ own past, and with their parents, and thus, frees the way for change in their own approach to parenting. Increasing engagement with this radio format is evidenced through the number of callers, letters and messages received which denounce violence, especially towards children and women in the community.
Some recent topics of these radio-plays have been; addressing corruption in society, by using the example of bribery, starting as early as during election campaigns for school prefect; and, the role of the police in upholding safeguarding procedures in cases of violence against children, which can often go unreported or ignored. The discussion which followed the latter, included the participation of the deputy spokesperson of the Ugandan police and their press representative.
Community Outreach Programme is Changing the Lives of Children and Vulnerable Adults
Through sensitisation programmes in schools, parent outreach workshops, promotion through the churches and dedicated radio shows, the message of Child and Vulnerable Adult Safeguarding and Protection, and the employment of positive discipline methods, is being spread, accepted, appreciated and used. The feedback from those who have benefited from positive discipline methods being adopted in their school are stories of student retention, improving grades and real appreciation, replacing fear, by students for their teachers.
Promoting Positive Discipline is a Process and a Challenge
However, this change is an ongoing process. Adoption of safeguarding and positive discipline practices is not always immediate and complete. It takes time, continued mentoring and monitoring. VM Eilís McDonald makes the point of informing the participants of her workshops that it was not all that long ago in Ireland, when she can remember corporal punishment being common in Irish society too; within one lifetime. However, the change is possible and the VMM Safeguarding and Positive Discipline Programmes have mentored local counterparts who continue to spread the message and methods and who then mentor new, local advocates to spread the message even wider.
Yet, it is also the case that not all communities can benefit equally. For instance, it is not as easy to physically reach distant, rural communities to conduct workshops in regions where residents also may not have radios to hear the message at home. It may not seem the most important resource, but simply having the cost of petrol, which is almost as expensive in Africa as it is in Europe and elsewhere, is vitally important to enabling the spread of the Safeguarding and Positive Discipline message beyond the cities and townships.
If you would like to support the continuation and growth of the VMM Safeguarding and Protection Programme for Children and Vulnerable Adults, we have a page on the GlobalGiving fundraising platform. Every donation is most gratefully received and ensures that the changes set in motion and welcomed in communities throughout East Africa can continue and expand into the very heart of these communities, into the most isolated areas and further beyond into the communities of all of our partner organisations across Africa.
If you would like to make a donation, please select one of the following links: