Promoting child protection and women’s rights at the Children’s Academy
Two issues of grave concern in Haiti are child protection and women’s rights. As many as 200,000 Haitian children live as restavèk and women and girls commonly live in fear of sexual or domestic abuse from husbands and others. Unreliable and unresponsive law enforcement only make these problems worse.
To counter these issues at the Children’s Academy, we have taken a multi-pronged approach with guidance and support from our close friends at Beyond Borders. First, 45 students’ parents meet weekly to participate in a program called “Education is Conversation” (ESK is the Creole acronym). Through ESK, participants confront, first in conversation and then through role-playing, critical issues that afflict their communities: child abuse, sexual harassment, restavèk, and others. In doing so they not only become more informed about the reality of the issues themselves, but they practice actually intervening.
Next, school staff and others associated with the school, like the Wozo Youth Choir, become advocates for women and children by raising awareness about these issues in their community. For example, at peasant group gatherings, churches, soccer matches, other schools, the health clinic and other community events.
Last month we initiated another activity called, “social mapping.” For three days from (April 7-9) Freda Catheus – a long-time community organizer and friend with Beyond Borders – led 60 community members and 13 school staff members through a process to create a hand-drawn map marked with houses, roads, paths, local institutions, and other significant sites. In the course of the activity, participants fill out surveys through which we gather basic demographic information: number of people in each household (by gender), number of children in school, number of children who may be restavèk, approximate level of wealth/poverty, etc. This information helps participants identify resources already present in the community as well as potential issues that need to be addressed. It also provides baseline information against which we can gauge progress in the future.
Haiti Partners is very grateful to our friends and respected colleagues at Beyond Borders for supporting and guiding us in these activities. Not only are they vital in our efforts to support women and children in and around the Children’s Academy, they were received with great enthusiasm by participants.