‘We must sensitise children’
Home from Home is a cluster foster care organisation which welcomes
vulnerable, abused and orphaned
children into its homes. Living with a foster mother and other foster children in a home creates a healthy family environment. Home from Home is shocked at the levels of gender-based violence (GBV) in our country. The organisation has been forced to reflect on its work and the role it is playing in preventing this scourge in society.
The children in its homes usually arrive when they are at a very impressionable age. The organisation is able to mitigate the trauma the children have experienced in their past, and hopefully, put them on the paths of growing up as optimistic and positive adults. Home from Home believes that the values and morals that their foster mothers instil in all the children in their care will ensure that boy children will not be part of the population of men that become abusers.
But is this a sufficient outcome of the organisation’s work? Our society is made up of many good men and women who have allowed this current scourge to become so rampant. As a society, we need our boys and girls to be growing up sensitised to the problem, and we need them to become activists against such intolerable behaviour. Being an activist doesn’t only demand that we challenge openly abusive types of behaviour; it requires us to show zero tolerance of the more subtle behaviours that we, even good men, all too often ignore, accept or encourage when we socialise.
The media is full of messages that objectify women (and men). Surely, we need to be actively making our boy children aware of the more subtle messages they receive daily; we need to show them appropriate ways of standing against this influence.
The team of social workers and an education support programme co-ordinator aim to support both the Home From Home foster mothers and the children in their care to make sense of information about themselves and about people who are different from them. One of the key values at Home from Home is empathy, which includes respect for all, despite our differences.
This is achieved through ongoing individual and group support, using a variety of strategies. One of the tools that has been successfully used, and which we hope to use more frequently, is a set of “persona dolls”.
The dolls are given personas and stories are used to encourage children to communicate, problem solve, unlearn prejudice and develop empathy, life skills and a sense of well-being. Most importantly, they are used to promote a healthy sense of self. The children can identify with the dolls’ stories and are encouraged to engage and express their own thoughts, fears, wishes and experiences.
If all our boy children begin to see all women in the same light as they see their mothers and/or sisters and if all our girl children have strong role models, develop a healthy understanding of their strength, and see themselves respected in the Home from Home environment, then activism against GBV will surely be more effective in diminishing this scourge in our society.
* Peter Marx is executive director at Home from Home.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.