Grandmothers Tackle Child Abuse in Guatemala

From Grandmother Power, A Global Phenomenon by Paola Gianturco (powerHouse Books, 2012)

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Grandmothers run the Child Abuse Hotline in Jalapa, Guatemala for Plan International. It’s grandmothers who have the time to listen, the compassion to offer comfort and the wisdom to make appropriate referrals to hospitals, police or social workers.

A local social worker says, “Children, parents, grandmothers and neighbors prefer to talk about child abuse with an understanding, warm, friendly, nice grandmother.”

On the other hand, grandmothers are tough. An 80-year-old great-grandmother says: “I was visiting a young family. I knew the father had killed people in the past. He became very aggressive. His daughter hid behind me for protection. I told him, ‘Stop! I will report you.’ He grabbed a machete so I said, ‘I will call the police to take you to jail.’ I handed him a flier and urged him, ‘Read this. You don’t have to act like this.’ I had been trained and was not afraid.”

Seventy percent of all Guatemalan children are said to suffer abuse. Most physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse in Guatemala is not reported because people don’t believe the authorities can help and mistreatment usually occurs at home where corporal punishment is legal.

The Jalapa grandmothers run a 12-session training course to teach that good parenting includes listening, talking, hugging and smiles. Graduates build community networks and teach their neighbors how to raise children with love.


Read five other inspiring stories of grandmothers making important changes in their communities.

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