I want to change my hair colour, I want to change my car, I need to change phones… Changing material and tangible goods is easy if you have the means and resources to do it. But how do we change things that we cannot necessarily see? How do we stop children being trafficked? How do we stop children being tied up to a pole and beaten? How do we stop sexual abuse or children being starved? Unfortunately, WE—you, I, Ingvar, Save the Children—we cannot change anything until people have realised the need for change. Change comes from within…
For hundreds of years, children of Myanmar have been the victims of domestic abuse. “My grandparents did it, my parents did it to me and I have turned out fine so I will do it to my children.” When I say domestic abuse, I do not mean a smack if you are having a tantrum. The abuse the children in Myanmar face is brutal beatings, starvation, neglect and trafficking. “How can this be?!” I hear you say. “Why do the police not arrest the perpetrators?” I hear you ask. This has been the way for many generations and as a result is one of the biggest challenges Save the Children in Myanmar face: changing attitudes.
Yesterday my co-workers and I travelled to Shwepyithar and Shwe Bone Thar, where we met child groups, child-protection groups and community-based organisations. Child groups are formed by children who will educate their friends and families within their local communities. From 18 years old you can join a child-protection group whereby you support the child group, educate local authorities and increase awareness amongst communities about child rights and child protection.
At the top of the child rights and child-protection hierarchy are community-based organisations. Many of the organisations are now registered charities with their own logos and names. They are run by local citizens and often asked to attend police matters regarding child rights and welfare as they are extremely knowledgeable about the laws regarding the protection of children. The people who are involved in these proactive groups are local citizens who want to change and improve the lives of future generations. Many of these members never knew about their rights when they were growing up but, thanks to the IKEA Foundation and Save the Children, many have stopped beating their children and are determined to ensure a better life for their children and children’s children.
“Change starts with myself, my children, my neighbours and my neighbours’ children. Whatever we do there are challenges, so we have to be very patient and tolerant of situations. We have to take small steps to achieve big changes.”
These words from Aung Soeoo, a community-based organisations leader, resonated deep inside me. If we want to make a difference in this world, it must start with ourselves before we can help others. Only then can one make a positive difference in the world. I can be impatient at times. When my parents tell me that Rome was not built in a day, I will roll my eyes and let the saying flow into one ear and out of another, but yesterday highlighted the importance of this analogy to me. Although I do know Rome was not built in a day, I SEE and BELIEVE that not everything has to be instaneous to make a positive improvement.
If one child was educated every day about their rights, this would result in 365 children being aware of the importance of their rights and what to do when their rights are violated. Although this is a small number out of the 1.2 million children in Myanmar, the potential for the number of children to be educated over the next five years is incredible. The number of children being abused will decrease and there will be a better everyday life for the many children of Myanmar. Some flowers will blossom with a little bit of sunshine and water, whereas others need more water to grow to their full potential. But with a little bit of self-realisation, a handful of confidence, a heart of passion and the determination to succeed, anything is achievable. Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.
Hilary Jenkins (Save the Children), Iain Neal (IKEA London), Clare Rodgers (IKEA UK & IE), John Collinson (DC Doncaster), Moira Saunders (IKEA Belfast) and I all had the privilege of spending the afternoon speaking to the inspirational and proactive members of the community-based organisation in Bone Shaekone Village.