Photo: Susanne Drakborg
Sometimes it is about those simple things. We want to give children the chance to be children. It does not have to be about therapeutic treatment or complicated models. It can also just be about giving a child who is living in violence and in risky situations the possibility to be just as any other child. That is why we support projects like these:
Enter Meetingpoint, that offer a safe space to meet for girls who find themselves in difficult circumstances. They cook together. They go out to the beach. They can test inline skating or go skiing for the first time in their lives because they do not have the possibility to do that with their family.
Children to single mothers, who organizes trips to the zoo, or just to the sea, in order for their children to want to remember this summer holiday as something that is worth remembering.
Alla Kvinnors Hus, a shelter for abused women, that with our support has started a pre-school for the children that have to stay with their mothers to hide from abusive men, sometimes up to a year. The pre-school teacher told me that the children often compare with their “own” pre-school and say that “this is just like we did in my pre-school”. It´s just the same! And it should be! They are just like any other children and should have the possibility to play and have fun just like other children do.
Sweden is one of the countries that rank highest in the world when it comes to child wellbeing. Education and healthcare is free for all children. Pre-school is not expensive. The standard of living is high compared to most countries Childhood works in. Corporal punishment was forbidden more than thirty years ago and children are expected to be treated with respect. But still, children’s mental health is deteriorating. And one particularly vulnerable group, in Sweden as well as in all other countries, is children growing up in families where one or both parents abuse drug or alcohol or have a mental illness. Childhood has for several years supported an organization called “Maskrosbarn” founded by two young women who themselves grew up under such circumstances. With lots of love, courage and commitment they have now developed a strong organization that every year offers Summer-camps that combines information and support with fun summer activities and a supportive network to almost hundred teenagers from families with abuse and mental illness. They organize cozy Friday evenings, support groups and much more for this group of children. Most of the children have had (more or less) contact with the social services. Some have been removed from their families and are in continuous contact with different authorities. Others have asked for support but have not received it. When Maskrosbarn gathered the experiences from these children through focus groups and interviews it became quite clear that they too often lacked information about what rights they actually have in society and that they too often felt that adults did not listen to them and did not take their opinions into considerations, for example when deciding about interventions. Maskrosbarn has recently launched a campaign called “Pimp my soc”. The message is that through a few non-expensive measures based on the views of children, the social services can become much more child friendly and better equipped to reach this group – both when it comes to attitude and environment. Some of the messages from the youth to the social workers are quite simple, but really important – Show that you care! Listen! and Treat me with respect!
This is what children very often see when visiting the social services, according to Maskrosbarn.
This is what a child friendly room could look like, according to Maskrosbarn.
In my morning newspaper, the editorial complains about how difficult it is to assess the effects of development assistance. I get to work and the same day I read two reports from our partner-organizations and am so proud to read about results on so many levels. The services we support reaches children and families most in need and definitely makes a difference in many people’s lives.
I read about how the Child Rights Bureau in Sweden with our support has developed the first practical children’s advocacy service in Sweden. One of the cases is a girl who after years of sexual abuse finally disclosed and instead of getting the support she needed from different authorities, found herself in a situation where everybody claimed that she was someone else’s responsibility. The Child Rights Bureau stayed with her throughout her difficult time and helped her getting the support she was entitled to. Isn’t that a result?
I read the impressing report from Philani Nutrition Centre in South Africa, an organization that we have supported for almost ten years. Philani annually helps around 5000 children and pregnant mothers and a randomized control study has shown significantly improved health and well-being for the mothers and babies who are part of their home-visiting program. But that’s just numbers. Behind those numbers are stories that illustrate the complexity and hard work behind those figures. For example this one told by one of the home-visitors:
“One day when I was doing house to house visits a remote rural village accessed only by a gravel road, I found the family M with a pregnant 20-year old and a 16 year old with an underweight child suffering from tuberculosis. They live in one room with their mother and father. The eldest daughter told me to finish early because she was afraid of the father coming inside; they did’t want any people entering the house. I returned another day and asked why they didn’t want the father to know that I was visiting. The 20 year old replied that her father sexually abuses both of them and she is pregnant with his child and HIV positive”.
After several visits, the home-visitor helps them to get medical treatment, she convinces the grand-mother that she needs to help her daughters get away from her abusive husband and finally she helped them move out. They are now getting the treatment they need and are safe from abuse.
Isn’t that a result?