In this blog article, COTA Cali Field Officer, Heidy Araque shares her observations after participating in one of Corpolatin’s session for parents in one of the state schools in the hills to the west of Cali where they are working as part of their project with COTA.
Corpolatin organised two sessions with children and another with their parents. Corpolatin recently started working at this school so this was an opportunity to introduce the parents to the project and provide them with information on what it entails.
A few mums were already waiting when we arrived. Sandra from Corpolatin, who was leading the session, organised an ice-breaker, so the group could get to know one another. After a briefing, where Sandra explained that one of the aims of the project is to enable children to identify risks and to learn how to protect themselves from violence -and to help parents and teachers understand how best to support children in this process- we started an exercise where participants could discuss how appropriate it was to use physical punishment to correct their children.
All of the participants (including me, on a handful of occasions) had been physically punished as children; so the majority of the mums considered physical punishment acceptable to certain extent. Although Sandra had prepared more discussion points, her initial exercise merited an open discussion, which we went on to have.
Many mums understood that unlimited physical violence against their children is inappropriate. But the group differed and discussed openly what ‘limits’ where practicable. Personal stories emerged in this conversation; they brought afloat parent’s experiences as children, the impact of fractured couple relationships on the relationships between children and parents, the role of fathers in the family, mothers’ profound interest in bringing up ‘good lads’ despite the challenges of the context in which they live…
Horrific stories also came afloat: someone shared the story of a child who’s being restrained at home with wire, someone else wanted some guidance from Corpolatin on dealing with a case of sexual abuse of a girl by a relative; four of the participating mums decided to stay behind at the end of this session to discuss a specific issue with Corpolatin.
By the end of the session, I was surprised to see how engaged the mums had become during the course of the afternoon. One of their main worries had been whether participation in this project would have a detrimental impact on their children’s marks. By the end of the session, mums had changed their perception of the project, not only because Corpolatin explained that the school had fully endorsed the project and had already advised on ways that the activities wouldn’t affect academic commitments but mainly because the mums could see the value of the discussion for themselves and their children’s wellbeing. The mums wanted the best for their children all along but this is probably the first opportunity they’ve had to sit down to reflect and discuss what actions they can take to help protect the children who surround them.
Before the end of 2013, there are two more sessions planned with parents and four more with children. This is being done simultaneously in five schools and all participants are becoming aware that Corpolatin’s helpline is available for future support when they need it. To help continue this work to protect children, please make a donation today.