Physical violence and emotional abuse are still a daily reality for many children in Moldova, both at home and at school. Terre des hommes Moldova, with the financial support of the Oak Foundation, launched a three-year project to prevent violence against children through community engagement. On April 12, about 70 teachers and school students from 30 beneficiary communities participated in the project-launching event.
According to UNICEF's Children in the Republic of Moldova: Situation Analysis 2016, 76% of children aged 2 to 14 years have been subjected to violent methods of discipline at home, and almost every second adolescent knows a victim of bullying at school. Among other social-economic factors, acts of violence are largely caused and perpetuated by harmful social norms, a culture of violence in society and family, and low parenting skills.
In this context, Tdh works to combat the extensive phenomenon of violence against children in Moldova via:
- preventing violence among children in schools by transforming the school environment, empowering children, and training teachers;
- preventing child maltreatment in the family by improving parents’ capacity and empowering children;
- and contributing to reducing harmful social norms.
More than 3000 children, 1000 parents, 300 teachers, and 300 child protection professionals will be engaged in the project’s activities.
At the launching event, Mirela, a student from the village of Chetrosu, shared her belief that ‘one of the biggest problems in our school is violence among children, especially verbal and discrimination. In my opinion, these children, who cause "problems", should not be threatened or isolated, but involved in various activities’. Within the project, Mirela wants to set up a discussion group for students at her school, where anyone, regardless of their ‘reputation’, can participate and contribute to finding solutions to school problems.
In order to prevent violence and bullying in schools, our Moldova team will support 30 schools becoming centres of non-violence by:
- setting up and equipping youth-friendly spaces in each school;
- training and empowering 150 children to establish and organise "ALEG" ("I CHOOSE") youth clubs, and to conduct peer-to-peer activities focused on preventing violence among children;
- developing and carrying out training programmes for teachers and psychologists on preventing bullying and violence among children, and a training programme for children on preventing violence, promoting gender equality, tolerance, and participation.
Anatol Oprea, Child Protection Specialist at Tdh Moldova and coordinator of the project, emphasised the importance of parents' engagement, especially fathers’, in this project: "We want to change the belief that children’s education is the duty of mothers. I am particularly interested in this aspect of the project because the active engagement of fathers in children’s upbringing and education improves children’s social and cognitive skills, and increases their resilience."
To provide a safe and nurturing environment for children at home, Tdh wants to change parents' views on violent methods of disciplining by:
- improving parents' knowledge and skills through a parenting programme and monthly meetings with them;
- setting up nine new ludotecas (‘toy libraries’) that are safe places for children to spend time and participate in activities – and equipping with 21 existing toy libraries with new supplies;
- engaging children in psycho-social activities to develop their ability to act on behalf of their own interests and increase their resilience to cope with stress and adversity.
"Unfortunately, the belief that disciplining the child involves beating them still prevails in our society. This happens not because people are mean, but because they lack the proper knowledge. This is the main reason that the project hooked me – it emphasises the engagement of parents", says Eugenia Bordeiau, interim principal of the ‘Olimp’ high school in the village of Costesti.
To change harmful social norms that perpetuate violence against children, Tdh will focus on the active participation of fathers – an approach strongly promoted by the organisation. Thus, we will train teachers to carry out activities focusing on the importance of a fathers' role in their children's upbringing. At least 600 fathers will participate in monthly meetings and activities.
Other planned activities which will contribute to reducing harmful social norms include:
- inviting 150 children to participate in the social theatre programme, which will stage social theatre performances promoting human rights, tolerance for diversity, gender equality, and participation;
- an informative session for child protection professionals on their role in shaping social norms and the strategies they can use as messengers of positive social norms;
- and a small grants programme for the beneficiary communities to promote the positive social norms.
This project is a continuation of work that began in 2004 in Moldova to prevent violence against children by increasing children’s resilience, strengthening families, building the capacity of professionals, and mobilising communities.