San Juan de Lurigancho, Peru—Fathers play an important—and truly irreplaceable—role in the development of their children. Moreover, engaged dads contribute to making the world a better, more caring place for their families and communities.
In many countries around the world, harmful masculine norms create the opposite effect. In fact, the World Health Organization states that men are more likely to perpetuate violence if they participate in unequal gender norms or have a sense of entitlement over women.
With more than 150,000 cases of family violence reported annually in Peru, it is one of the main reasons why children lose parental care in the country.
To respond to this problem, SOS Children’s Villages, the largest international nonprofit caring for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children in the U.S. and 135 other countries, developed the “Grow without Violence” project. This project promotes men’s involvement as equitable, nonviolent fathers and caregivers and launched in the San Juan de Lurigancho neighborhood known to have one of the highest rates of family violence just outside Lima in Peru.
The goal of the program is to have fathers positively engage in their children’s lives. From pregnancy on, fathers focus on learning the importance of communications when resolving issues, and how sharing childcare responsibilities at home creates positive and lasting bonds with the children in their lives.
Through parenting workshops and group discussions, the program builds on the MenCare methodology's 10 pillars of positive masculinity:
- Be involved from the start
- Share the caregiving responsibilities
- Be proud of your child and show it
- Raise without violence
- Be involved in your children's healthcare
- Be brave to show affection
- Teach equality and respect
- Support the mother
Many fathers are surprised to discover that changing diapers makes life better for their whole family. Fathers who completed the report taking a more active role in their children’s lives, greater satisfaction in their family lives and better, stronger relationship with their children.
"Now I do my chores. I clean, I fold clothes, I make the bed, I change my children's clothes" says Jhon, one of the fathers who participated in the project. While small, things like these contribute to building a more positive home environment; post project evaluation shows 46% of families experience a marked decrease of various forms of violence in their families.
With over one thousand parents having participated in the program, more than 600 children in San Juan de Lurigancho live in stronger, violence free families.
"I used to be rude and grumpy," 47-year-old Esteban recalling his behavior before joining the project. "I would quickly lose my temper with my family. I did not show love to my wife. Now I am more tolerant. For example, instead of punishing, I use words and try to talk things through. I look for ways to share experiences with my children and to talk continuously. I have learned to value my family more. I see that my children really respect me now and they are not afraid of me anymore."
SOS Children's Villages is planning to implement similar projects across the region to help break the cycle of violence and improve the future outcomes for hundreds more children.
“Grow without violence” is part of the organization's family strengthening efforts aimed at preventing child abandonment and ensuring that every child has a chance to grow up in a loving and stable family.