Mrs. Achara Wang* is a 55-year-old woman living in a village in Northern Chiang Rai. She has one child, is separated from her husband, and works as a voluntary guidance teacher in a community area, helping teach children who do not have funds for education.
Violence against children is unfortunately a norm of life in the village she lives in. Yelling and scolding are often used to instruct children, both by parents and in classrooms. Mrs Wang disagrees with this and worries that children will absorb these behaviors, and go on to repeat them.
Before joining the Center for Girls Foundation’s (CFG) projects, Mrs. Wang was a community volunteer. One of her duties was to take care of bedridden children, including a girl with autism with limited verbal skills. While giving her a bath, she noticed bruising and marks on the girl’s body and suspected they were from sexual assault. She informed the relatives, to find the perpetrator.
However, the relatives did not want to take action, and she found out that people often assumed the girl had been sexually abused, as she was so terrified around men. The girl herself was not able to give verbal evidence. Taking charge of the situation, Mrs. Wang took her to the hospital for a check-up, where the sexual abuse was confirmed. The authorities tried to work with the family, however, found they were unfit to care for the girl. She was sent to the care of a home for disabled children in Nonthaburi province, where she was able to receive better care and attention; and be free from abuse. Mrs. Wang has been to visit her and is pleased to see the girl is looking much happier and healthier.
This was a turning point for Mrs Wang. “I’m very proud of helping with this case because it made me discover that this is who I am. I had never been happy or successful doing other types of business. But working here, I am so happy and I feel like I have found my purpose.”
When CFG started a project in Mrs. Wang’s community, it was a natural next step for her to nominate herself to become a community leader. She was given support and training from CFG and the village leaders. She was responsible for analyzing the baseline child rights situation in her community and was trained in the process of responding to cases of violence and children’s rights abuses and referring cases. She evaluated and screened sample cases for training other adults and leaders in her community.
Mrs. Wang is able to apply what she learned through the project in her daily life. Her observation skills are sharpened, and she knows what action to take if she sees a child with unusual bruising, or she is informed about a suspected child abuse case through her network. She watches out for children’s rights and provides information to members of the community. “Children believe what adults do, more than what they say. Therefore, we need to model good behavior for children to see, so they know how to behave. We want to take the best care of them that we can.”
Mrs. Wang is working to create a space in the community where children can come together and learn. She used to invite children to learn English using a community hall as a classroom but stopped during COVID. Now she is aiming to teach life skills along with English.
Her impact is felt throughout the wider community, with many people in the three adjacent sub-districts recognizing her as a woman who works for children. She is informed first when a problem arises. Many people in the community are fearful of going to the municipality for help. By being a community member, people feel more comfortable going to her, and she is able to bridge the gap between authorities and connect with local organizations as well.
*Name changed for privacy
– Aimee Vulinovich
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