The 1-tok Kaunselim Helpim Lain (Family Counselling Help-line) in Papua New Guinea receives dozens of calls each day from people suffering from, or reporting, abuse. Established in 2015 by ChildFund Papua New Guinea (PNG) in association with the Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee (FSVAC), the Hotline has received over 13,000 calls from people reaching out for help.
Most of these calls have been women, seeking advice for themselves and their children on how to keep safe or escape a violent situation. The counsellors will listen, guide and inform them of where to go and what they can do. However, almost half the calls are from men trying to find ways to reunite their family, or anxious to break the violent cycle that has become almost normalised in PNG.
The Counsellors understand that their input is just one small part of solving a mammoth violence problem in their country. They also recognise that ending violence against children must start with a solution addressing the whole family. “If you just look at children, or solving what the children are facing, we will miss the mark,” says Lua, one of the Hotline counsellors. “We have to go down to the roots of what is causing people to violate children. So we have to go down to the families. We have to educate, do awareness, run trainings with families, or hold knowledge management seminars or pre-natal seminars. But if we educate the right people, then we have educated the whole family.”
The best idea is often the product of lots of ideas. So to learn more about what could be done to end violence against women and children, two senior counsellors and support staff from ChildFund and FSVAC visited several, similar New Zealand organisations in June 2018. The learning exchange had a huge influence on their understanding of what could happen in PNG to end household violence. Agencies like New Zealand’s Oranga Tamariki: Ministry for Children work directly with children to keep them safe from harm, running a massive call centre which is supported by a team of active social workers. At another visit with SafeNetwork, they learned about the importance of a service responding to the perpetrators of sexual violence. For the Counsellors, such exposure visits opened doors in their thinking and by the time of their departure, they were awash with important new concepts that could potentially be adapted to PNG. Their roles as child protection advocates in PNG will now see these ideas lifted into the social protection sector in PNG and, hopefully, into government thinking. Extra work is being done by ChildFund in PNG, and around the Pacific, to encourage governments to spend more money on protecting children from harm and invest in the child protection workforce, in collaboration with the Joining Forces Network established to end violence against children.