Wherever Life Groups gather, children gather too. We have seen the very real needs and challenges children face on a day to day basis. In response to this need, we began an exciting new project called ‘Love Your Children’, a resource that explores the importance of children to God. We believe that ‘Love Your Children’ will be a powerful tool in the hands of Life Groups and make a real impact on the lives of young people in their communities.
A few months ago, we sat down with Katy, Kate and Jan about their upcoming trip to Zambia (read the full story here). They have all been heavily involved in the production of ‘Love Your Children’ and were looking forward to working with our Impact Teams to help develop and pilot this project further. Having now returned home safely, it was lovely to sit down again and talk to them about their amazing experiences and hear more about what they had been up to.
Their agenda for the trip was to join up with Impact Team leaders Agness, Freddy and Ntanga and receive safeguarding training in Lusaka from Tehila. Together they would then to take this knowledge to Mkushi to share with other Impact Team and Life Group members over a 3 day EQUIP training course – during which they would work together to agree good practices for all involved with Dignity.
The initial training in Lusaka (where the group were joined by Jo and Frank Kimball) focused on presenting an overview of Zambian safeguarding law, going into specific detail about both legal and cultural understanding of what a child is. Tehila facilitated excellent cross-cultural discussions that really deepened the entire group’s understanding of Zambian safeguarding.
“We’ve all attended safeguarding training many times… and the way Tehila facilitated us was excellent. It wasn’t the way that the Zambian education system works, so I think it was quite a challenge for the Dignity Zambia Team, which they rose to… engaging with discussion, asking questions, working in groups, working in twos and threes, feeding back. Which was great because they really paved the way.”
Agness, Freddy and Ntanga all came from varying different backgrounds, and so each were able to bring their own contribution to the discussions that helped paint a greater picture of the culture of childcare. They were able to draw on examples and experiences from their own lives that not only aided the learning of the group, but also grounded how important safeguarding really is. An example of the important subjects under discussion would be defining the difference between poverty and neglect as a form of child abuse. They came to the conclusion that neglect is a choice, and that actually there are many things you can do to protect your children and the children around you, regardless of circumstance.
The group then travelled to Mkushi to take part in the first official Dignity Zambia EQUIP safeguarding training. They were joined there by 9 more Life Group and Impact Team members of varying ages and an even split of men and women. Each day consisted of 4 different sessions – the first being a session presented by either Katy, Kate or Jan that was based on teaching from our new publication ‘Love Your Children’. Agness, Freddy and Ntanga also lead sessions, explaining in their own words (and dramatisations!) how child abuse can happen in your own communities and how you can resolve the issues there. Simple things, as Josephine and Agness identified (here), like making sure you don’t leave your children home alone or with strangers. Shockingly, only 4% of Zambians have birth certificates, and only 11% are officially registered*. Simple changes that could make a huge difference if practised widely enough.
“I think in terms of awareness, and thinking about abuse and what that is, having these discussions within Zambian communities is quite new and different. I think that it is important to have those discussions and to just look at our village, our family and ask actually ‘what are we doing?’… and start to just challenge what we accept as normal.”
The Dignity UK Team expressed how exciting it was to see the EQUIP group not only take on the training but fully engage with it. Agness, Freddy and Ntanga were able to share their safeguarding knowledge with the group in a way that was incredibly captivating and effective. The entire group were then able to handle these quite sensitive discussions with a maturity that spoke to how deeply they were thinking about the subject matter. It also became apparent how many elements of ‘Love Your Children’ paralleled with what they were discussing in regards to child safeguarding and doing these sessions side by side had some really encouraging results. Everyone was able to quote and draw from elements of the ‘Love Your Children’ stories throughout the training!
Working collectively, everyone at the training then wrote ‘Guidelines for Safe Life Groups’ and developed a Safeguarding Policy for Dignity Zambia going forward. These, together with Love Your Children, will help communities look at local issues and makes small changes to grow the awareness of child protection, encourage children themselves to be more aware of how to keep themselves safe. Whilst Dignity does not work directly with children, we believe these tools will lead to a positive change for children in communities where Life Groups meet, and ultimately we hope across the whole nation!
“We’ve put Safeguarding through the Dignity pipeline.”
The amazing thing that we are now able to do is revisit ‘Love Your Children’ with this safeguarding knowledge and begin to intertwine some positive action within the session. We hope that this will mark the beginning a quiet revolution of how children can be looked after more safely that will echo across Life Groups and beyond.
Going forward, Kate, Katy and Jan ask that you pray for:
- The training and the knowledge shared with the Life Group and Impact Team members not to be lost, but passed on.
- Wisdom in the final drafts of ‘Love Your Children’, that they can incorporate everything that they have learned and that it will have an impact on others.
- Fundamental and widespread change across the sub-Saharan Africa for all children suffering from abuse.
*UNICEF Country Profile: Zambia, 2016