Pedagogy of Tenderness – stories from Peru
I had heard Mike talk a lot about Infant and the children in Iquitos and wanted to visit them someday. I was thrilled when I was told that I would be going to Peru. I had never stayed up in the air for 26 hours at a stretch (that was the flying time to Lima from New Delhi) and travelled nearly two days to reach my destination. Landing in Iquitos reminded me of home- same topography and similar facial features. The Iquitos visit was in two parts- i) Infant and ii) Visit to Loreto province’s Nauta and Parinari municipalities ( situated in the Amazonian forests).
My first interaction was with the leaders of Infant (children below 18 years as well as older boys and girls who are also part of the organization as mentors/advisors). Infant has provided a platform for young children to voice their opinions, discuss and take up issues. Organized children groups are rare to find and are always dominated by adults but one can clearly see the empowered children calling the shots in Infant. The elders provide the required support and facilitation.
Infant’s exposure to Brazil has resulted in adopting new programmes especially in rescue of young children during floods. The ‘flagging’ of houses with infants and young children has resulted in no deaths of children this year (last year eleven children had died). The children’s presentation of their baseline research was insightful especially about the violence against children. The most remarkable thing I noticed was the way older children mentored the younger children and took them along to meetings and encouraged them to facilitate and participate. The leadership qualities of the children were very evident and impressive.
BvLF supports a coordination unit in the Ministry of Women for coordination among various departments that provide child related services such as health, education, women etc. The project aims at ensuring that the remote areas inside the amazons access all government services and also are adequately budgeted for in the province and federal plans. While the reach of the government is far flung, it was evident that lots need to be done especially regarding children’s health, nutrition and livelihood of the communities.
Most of the children in the communities we visited seemed malnourished. The people are dependent on farming, forest produces and fishing for livelihood. Due to lack of storage and transportation facilities, they consume what they produce. There was also inadequate information about the various government schemes. In all the communities we visited was that there was a quest for development. The decentralisation of governance is evident with the Mayors (elected representatives) being accountable and powerful. One of the suggestions was to have community level plans to identify the existing problems, resources and leverage government plans accordingly.
The international experts’ consultation on Violence against children in Lima was well organised and attended. The two day consultation had experts from various fields- UN, NGOs, police officers, epidemiologists, parliamentarians, activists and children representing various countries. The discussions ranged from highlighting the issue, deliberating on different solutions (violence reduction strategies such as Ceasefire, Cali experiment, home based interventions), finding ways to measure the impact and creating an enabling policy environment.
The two most important take away from this trip for me are:
- Violence against children cannot be seen as an isolated goal or issue. It needs to reflect in our situation analysis, programme design, implementation and evaluation in all our work with children- be it scaling early childhood education or ensuring a safe and healthy physical environment. This has to be integrated in all our work. This also led me to reflect on many standalone projects we do and why it becomes difficult to have the desired impact.
- Children being at the centre of their own development will change the equation and quality of programmes. Infant’s work is an example of how policy can be changed and public can be involved in children’s issues. Organised children are a powerful voice and we should strive to facilitate formation of such organizations.
BvLF is very well respected among all sectors in Peru and this has to do with Leonardo’s strategic grant making. After my Peru visit, I shared my observations and learning with our grantees in India. We will relook at the programme design to integrate prevention of violence against children and have more integrated programmes without any budget implications.